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.


[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.


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.


[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 official 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.”)


“Anybody who wants can read my memoirs and find out that [my work] is far away from Satanism,2 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.

Charisma Runs Debunked George Soros Parody Video as “News”


Another triumph  for Bob Eschliman, the “journalist” tasked by the evangelical news site Charisma News with producing secular news stories designed to bolster the Trump campaign:

George Soros: Yes, the Election Is Rigged

During an interview with Bloomberg last month, billionaire financier of liberal-progressive activism George Soros claimed Donald Trump would win November’s popular vote in a landslide—but Hillary Clinton will be the next president of the United States.

At points in the interview, Soros was almost unintelligible with his comments. His answers in those moments were seemingly unrelated to the topic of the question, but he provided a couple moments of clarity when asked specifically about the outcome of the 2016 presidential election…

There is a simple reason why Soros was “almost unintelligible” and gave answers that were “unrelated to the topic of the question”: it’s because the video is in fact a heavily edited parody video, uploaded to YouTube in August by someone using the name “Temple of Truth” – and it was thoroughly debunked by Snopes weeks ago.

A notice under the vcharisma-sorosideo states “NOTICE: Our videos are edited for comedic purposes”, and the video ends with to a cut of Hillary Clinton laughing while surrounded by a graphic of flames. Another clue is that the thumbnail used for the video shows Soros superimposed over an Israeli flag – an anti-semitic conspiracy trope that is now prominently embedded in Charisma‘s lead story!

Eschliman’s piece ends with a recommendation that readers click through to an article on the Daily Caller about how Soros is supposedly linked to voting machines used in 16 states and “suspected of being used to rig the 2004 Venezuelan presidential election.”

As a religious news outlet, Charisma News is perhaps less known than other conservative alternative media, although its output is covered by Right Wing Watch. The site’s heavily politicized secular articles appear among accounts of miracles and “spiritual warfare” and such, as well as religious news proper.

Jack Chick, “The World’s Most Published Author”, Has Died

Prolific tract author spread anti-Catholic conspiracy theories and promoted Satanic Panic

From Christianity Today:

Jack Chick, the cartoonist who wanted to save your soul from hell, died Sunday at age 92.

The biggest name in tract evangelism, Chick distributed more than 500 million pamphlets, nicknamed “chicklets,” over five decades. His signature black-and-white panel comics warned against the dangers of everything from the occult to Family Guy.

Various media outlets have reported on Chick’s demise, following an announcement that appeared on the Chick Publications Facebook page. Newsmax describes him as a “pioneering publisher of illustrated Gospel tracts”, noting that his tracts “angered some by speaking negatively about the Catholic church, Wicca, rock music, and homosexuality, among other topics”, while to Jezebel he was “the creator of bigoted yet weirdly enjoyable comic books”. Boing Boing, which seems to have been the first to have drawn attention to the announcement, focuses on one particular area of his writing, refering to him as “father of the Satanic panic” (more on that below).

jack-chickChick Tracts are ubiquitous: a 2003 profile in the Los Angeles Magazine states that he was “the world’s most published author”. In Christian bookshops, his tracts are sold in shrink-wrapped bundles, and the back-covers carry details of his international distributors. In the UK, Chick’s man was Theodore Danson-Smith, an old-time “King James Bible” fundamentalist who runs the B. McCall Barbour Christian bookshop in Edinburgh; there was controversy in 2011 when anti-occult themed Chick Tracts were shoved through the letterbox of a witchcraft shop in Devon, which Danson-Smith cheerfully justified as an an attempt to save the shop-owner’s soul.

Yet Chick himself was a recluse, rarely giving interviews and reportedly fearful that his life was under threat from Jesuits. According to a 1999 article by a writer and filmmaker named Dwayne Walker (page one here), Chick abjured association with the Christian Booksellers’ Association, complaining that it had been infiltrated by Catholics and become too focused on Christian celebrities such as Jim Bakker; the Los Angeles Magazine called him “the Thomas Pynchon of the Christian comics crowd”. He was in fact an underground comic artist, and as such he was was reportedly praised by the likes of Robert Crumb (in 2011 one writer even concocted a self-described conspiracy that Chick and Crumb were in fact the same person).

However, although Chick remained stuck in a 1950s sawdust trail groove, he was not isolated from wider networks. Walker’s article has some context here – and given that it is now consigned to the Internet Archive, I’ll quote a bit more at length than usual:

David [Cagle, founder of the King James Bible Society  was expelled from Bob Jones University because of his friendship with a renegade pastor named Peter Ruckman… David eventually went to work for Peter Ruckman’s Bible Baptist Bookstore and I moved to Hollywood to work in the fringes of softcore pornography and women’s wrestling videos. We still kept in touch, which was how I learned Jack Chick relied heavily on Peter Ruckman’s theology. Not only had Ruckman coined the phrase ‘Alexandrian Cult’, which Jack Chick started using in his defensive pro-King James ‘Sabotage’, but the term ‘chicklets’ was actually coined at Ruckman’s Pensacola Bible Institute.

…Randy Chapman was David’s contact at Chick Publications. Randy and David knew each other for quite some time, and now Randy was practically Jack’s right hand man. I introduced myself to Randy at the Anaheim CBA. He was working the Ruckman booth and selling Chick tracts.

Through these contacts, Walker managed to secure a meeting. Walker describes Chick as resembling the actor Slim Pickens, and he jokily includes a movie still of Pickens in the areoplane cockpit in Dr. Strangelove, which he captions as being Chick. Here’s some of what they discussed:

Chick began to open up and our conversation drifted from the business at hand to a variety of subjects; his views on Bob Jones University (who banned his comics for ‘sex and violence’), Jerry Falwell, Trinity Broadcasting Network, Peter Ruckman, Christian movie producer, David Balsiger, John Todd, and ‘occult expert’ Rebecca Browning.

…David Balsiger recently had a contract with CBS Television for a number of specials including ‘Mysteries of the Ancient World’ in which I commented on Nostradomus. David’s contract was cancelled when it was discovered George Jammal appeared on Balsiger’s show, claimed to have been on Noah’s Ark, and was later revealed to be a hoax. Balsiger had his CBS contract dropped and went to work for Group Publications. George Jammal went on to play the angry father in my film, Bible Madness.

“Balsiger sat on that couch right there! He’s really into conspiracies.”

…Ben Kinchlow, Pat Robertson’s former co-host, is a big Chick fan who visited the Rancho Cucamonga office. The book, The Most Dangerous Man in America, has a story where Kinchlow sends a Chick comic to a fan who is inquiring about the last days. The comic contains some anti-Catholic statements, which upset the person who complained to a Catholic periodical.

Walker goes to on note that Balsiger influenced Chick’s portrayal of Noah’s Ark as “a rectangle with a smaller rectangle in the center”. Balsiger is indeed “really into conspiracies”: in 1971, he and Mike Warnke formed an “anti-occult ministry” under the aegis of Morris Cerullo, and Balsiger ghosted Warnke’s notorious Christian paperback fraud The Satan Seller.

However, there is one error in the above: “Rebecca Browning” should actually be “Rebecca Brown”. Her account of being an ex-witch was heavily promoted by Chick Publications, and an article by G. Richard Fisher, Paul R. Blizard and M. Kurt Goedelman called “Drugs, Demons and Delusions: The ‘Amazing’ Saga of Rebecca Brown” is a thorough debunking, comparable to  Mike Hertenstein and Jon Trott’s exposé of Warnke. Fisher et al. write:

Rebecca Brown and Elaine (no last name is given), have told their story to Jack rebecca-brownChick, whose Chick Publications company has published it in two cassette tapes, Closet Witches 1 and Closet Witches 2, and two books, He Came To Set The Captives Free and Prepare for War. Rebecca and Elaine have also had opportunity to promote their message on the syndicated talk show Geraldo in 1987.

Chick Publications, once known primarily as a publisher of Gospel tracts, has gained notoriety as a publisher of sensational stories, most notably those of John Todd, who claims to possess knowledge of an occult, conspiratorial society called The Illuminati, and Alberto Rivera, who claimed to once have been a Jesuit priest who witnessed all kinds of ungodly activities and plots by the Roman Catholic Church.

Chick is no stranger to controversy but considers anyone who disputes his publications’ claims a spiritual enemy. On the tape Closet Witches 2 he says “I think the listeners should watch carefully who in the Christian circles will attack Rebecca and Elaine to destroy their credibility and the message on this tape. More than likely the attackers just might turn out to be satanists or witches pretending to be believers in Christ and it is going to be very, very interesting to watch.”

In fact, both Rebecca and Elaine had troubled personal histories, and Rebecca – formerly Ruth Irene Bailey – had been barred from working in medicine after “misdiagnosing alleged leukemia, various blood disorders, gall bladder disease, brain tumors and various other ailments and conditions all of which Respondent stated were allegedly caused by demons, devils and other evil spirits.” The scholar of African Christianity Paul Gifford has drawn attention the popularity of Brown’s books (and Chick Tracts) among evangelicals in Africa; in the 1990s he noted that Brown (who is white) had spoken at a Black-majority church in London, and that she was billed as appearing at a conference in Ghana alongside Emmanuel Eni as two “ex-Satanists”.

Brown’s books have more recently been reprinted by Whitaker House, which is Charismatic rather than “King James fundamentalist”, but the demonic presences in Chick Tracts and in Brown’s story both fit well with the kind of “Spiritual Warfare” teachings of neo-Pentecostalism. Thus perhaps it is worth noting that Chick died just two days after the demon-obsessed Charismatic theologian C. Peter Wagner.

Charisma Promotes New Satanic Ritual Abuse Claims

From Charisma News:

Ex-Witch Reveals the Ritual Satanic Abuse That Happens on Halloween

Since her salvation in recent years and subsequent inner healings and deliverance, Beth came to realize she was abused in a satanic ritual on Halloween when she was just 3.  

“We went to the (Mormon) church and what happened next made my blood curdle. I was given candy, but that was just a prelude to the sexual abuse that would happen in a satanic ritual,” Beth reveals in her blog.  

“On Halloween, Satanists use young children, such as myself, as sexual idols to worship. Other children receive a far worse fate. Death…”

This is just one of several articles published by Charisma about Beth Eckert, a woman in her thirties residing in California. Eckert apparently attended a Mormon church in early childhood and later embraced Wicca and occultism, before eventually becoming a Christian.

Charisma News caters to evangelical Christians, particularly neo-Pentecostals; the site’s publisher, Steven Strang, is a significant presence in evangelical Christian media, and according to a statement put out by the Ted Cruz campaign when Cruz gained Strang’s endorsement in January the site “is read by more than 200,000 monthly, with four million unique online visitors per month” (Strang is now an enthusiast for Trump).

Charisma News is most useful for monitoring trends and developments within neo-Pentecostalism, although in recent months it has branched out into purely secular anti-Clinton articles. It also gives a platform to one particular author who promotes David Icke-type conspiracies about elite “Illuminati” Satanic rituals and their potential to create dramatic supernatural irruptions. Eckert’s claims about Satanic abuse are similarly being promoted by the site at face value, despite the cautionary example of the 1980s Satanic Ritual Abuse panic.

The key phrase in the Charisma article is “since her salvation… Beth came to realize”.  An early version of Eckert’s story appeared on a site called Your Spiritual Quest a year ago. According to her account then, she left Mormonism because the religion presented God as “cruel and judging”, but her subsequent years in an occult and New Age milieu were not conducive to her psychological wellbeing or maintaining healthy relations. Although she believes her interests at this time were spiritually harmful, there is nothing about Satanism or child rape.

On her blog, The Other Side of Darkness, we can see how her story developed. In March, she wrote that:

I decided to explore options for counseling. Once I began to dive into the emotional and spiritual depths of my soul, I found the answers I had been seeking. I was horribly abused as a child, by the people who loved me and were supposed to be taking care of me. This was a shocking blow to me, because the abuse was so severe that I actually completely blocked it out. I mean I had no memories whatsoever of any of it. Yet the information I began to receive as revelations from the Holy Spirit, finally started to put my life together like a puzzle that had lost the corner pieces.

In April, she went into specifics:

I am now in a class for women who were sexually abused as children. This class, (called Wounded Heart, after the workbook), has been a big help for me… I was molested, sodomized and raped as a child, in the Mormon Church. The abuse was so terrifying that I completely blocked it from my conscious mind.

The Wounded Heart, by Dan Allender, was first published in 1989. The author heavily promotes the idea of “recovered memories”, and he warns readers that

The denial is an affront to God. It assumes that a false reality is better than truth. It assumes that God is neither good nor strong enough to help during the recall process.

In other words, to doubt the memories you have been told by a counsellor or “deliverance minister” that you’re supposed to have is to commit a sin. This is highly manipulative, and I would go so far as to describe it as a form of psychological abuse.

From suddenly remembering being abused, to being abused in a church setting, to being abused as part of Satanic ritual on Halloween – the arc is depressingly inevitable. In Britain, this kind of “recovered memory” led to the tragic suicides of Caroline Marchant and Carol Felstead, and it is likely that a dubious therapist inspired the lurid allegations made by “Nick” that led to the recent disturbing farce of Operation Midland.

As far as I can tell, Eckert has not contacted the police with her story – even though she’s young enough that her supposed abusers may well still be alive and continuing with their predations. That in itself seems to me to be a tacit admission – either by Eckert herself or those who are helping her to “discover” these memories – that this is not a story that could bear much scrutiny on specific details.

Given Eckert’s obviously vulnerable state and her relative obscurity, this was not a case I really wanted to explore in any detail – but with a high-profile religious media empire irresponsibly using her to promote unsubstantiated allegations that may well lead to innocent people suffering harm, there was little choice.

Pastor Saeed Abedini on Hillary Clinton and the Jezebel Spirit

From the Facebook page of American-Iranian Pastor Saeed Abedini:

…If a woman can’t be the head of a small group of people such as the family or church, how can she, Biblically, be the head of a country with millions of people?!

I think spirit of Jezebel is getting stronger and stronger in the United States which means some women want to have power and control over everything and be the head of everything. I can see it in the US culture, which is a spirit that wants to get the HEADSHIP of the country. But this is NOT from God, nor is it Biblical. I believe every one can be a leader, women and men, and women are amazing and wonderful leaders, but God gave the HEADSHIP to men. So there is a difference between leadership which women and men have and the headship which God gave to men. That’s the nature that God created in us.

Don’t vote for Hillary Clinton. Don’t give the HEADSHIP of a country to this woman.

I believe in equality of women and men but there are differences in how God orchestrated the leadership of our homes and life so that we can function in an orderly manner.

This is (or ought to be) a delicate subject for man who pleaded guilty to a domestic abuse charge in 2007 following an argument about a laptop, and whose now-former wife has accused him of long-term “physical, emotional, psychological, and sexual abuse through… addiction to pornography”. Naghmeh Abedini claims that the abuse continued even while her husband was imprisoned in Iran and their contact was limited to phone calls, and in January she wrote that

Three months ago Saeed told me things he demanded I must do to promote him in the eyes of the public that I simply could not do any longer. He threatened that if I did not the results would be the end of our marriage and the resulting pain this would bring to our children.

Naghmeh Abedini filed for a legal separation on the day of his return to the USA from Iran; her preferred way forward was marriage counselling, but her husband apparently declined and he carried through his threat by filing for divorce just a couple of weeks ago.

Saeed Abedini was famously a prisoner of conscience in Iran from 2012 to January 2016, when he was released as part of a deal. His imprisonment brought him not just support and sympathy (although there were concerns that his account of prison conditions had been embellished), but also celebrity: on his return he was greeted by Franklin Graham (who, true to type given his recent defences of Trump, cautioned against taking the claims of abuse at face value), and his Facebook statements are regularly covered by Christian media.

In May, a post by Abedini about how Christians must support Israel ahead of the End Times was covered by the Christian Post, while just a few days ago, Charisma News reported under the headline “Saeed Abedini Waxes Prophetic on Trump vs. Clinton Presidential Race” that

The United States presidential election closely mirrors God granting Israel kings, pastor Saeed Abedini says.  

“If they were walking with God and were depending on and repentant to God, He allowed them to rule accordingly,” Abedini says in a recent Facebook post. “If people were wicked, God gave them a wicked leader. If they were humble they would get a humble leader.”

…”First we need to humble ourselves before God before we can expect others to humble themselves. We need to stop judging and take care of our own problems.” 

In his most recent post, immediately following the third election debate, Abedini states that Trump and Clinton are both “amazing”, but – just as his distinction between “leadership” and “headship” is obscure –  it’s difficult to reconcile this generous assessment of both candidates with his view that Clinton is associated with Jezebel, the great villainess of the Hebrew Bible whose evil manifested in dominance over her husband. Abedini previously criticised Clinton in June, again invoking Jezebel and at that time complaining that she had not been in contact with him during his first months of imprisonment.

Abedini’s latest “Jezebel” post is illustrated by a remarkable portrait photo. Abedini sits dressed in a white suit at a white desk in a white room; in front of him is a white Apple laptop – unhappily bringing to mind the 2007 incident – and to his right (our left) sits a copy of the NIV Dad’s Devotional Bible. In the background, we have on our left an American flag and on the right the “Christian flag” that was designed at the end of the 19th century. Between them sits a white display cabinet, on which has been placed two small Israeli flags, another small US flag, and a print by Nancy Cupp, entitled Isaiah Sixty One Verse One. The image shows a crucifix that morphs into a sword, breaking chains of bondage.