Jim Bakker Off to the Holy Land with Joseph Farah and Jonathan Cahn

WND “reports“:

Surprise Guest Joins Cahn-Farah Israel Tour

Jim and Lori Bakker are not coming as celebrities or guest speakers, but as spiritual pilgrims. Jim Bakker hasn’t been to Israel in decades, and Lori Bakker has never been there.

They got the idea to come when Cahn, author of “The Harbinger” and the inspiration behind “The Isaiah 9:10 Judgment,” made a guest appearance on the Bakkers’ daily TV show.

“Jim Bakker is one of the giants and pioneers of Christian television,” said Cahn. “He helped found TBN and PTL and worked with Pat Robertson in the early years of ‘The 700 Club.’ He sat with world leaders and presidents in the White House. And yet the most powerful part of his story is what happened after being humbled under God’s hand, a humbling from which he emerged a changed man, a man of profound humility, compassion and grace – and with even more zeal for the Lord.”

[Joseph] Farah said the Bakkers recognize something he has seen himself as someone who has traveled to Israel frequently over the last 35 years – “there’s no better way to see Israel than with Jonathan Cahn.”

The “report”, of course, is really just an advert – the url shows that the article has been adapted from an earlier version, originally entitled – in bad taste – “Hamas Rockets Boon to Israel Tour”.

Joseph Farah is the editor of WND, which serves up a daily mix of anti-Obama conspiracy theories and fringe religious speculations; Cahn, meanwhile, is the author of a best-selling book – as modelled here by John Boehner – which links the events of 9/11 to God’s judgement and the last days. Cahn’s book is published by Stephen Strang’s Charisma empire, although WND has charge of a tie-in DVD.

Cahn’s rise from obscurity to evangelical super-stardom has been rapid, helped in large part by the Bakkers. Jim Bakker, in turn, owes his own revival to some extent to Rick Joyner, who now controls the remnants of Bakker’s PTL empire. Given that Bakker regularly claims to receive special messages from God about future events, “profound humility” is not the most obvious attribute.

As with the previous Cahn-Farah tour, the event, organised by Coral Tours, appears to be devotional: the emphasis is on the Biblical past rather than Farah and Cahn’s apocalyptic obsessions. The itinerary includes:

a special service at Calvary/Golgotha and the Empty Garden Tomb.

This does not mean the Holy Sepulchre, but rather the alternative site supposedly “discovered” by General Gordon in the nineteenth century. The Garden Tomb is today very popular with many evangelicals: unlike the Holy Sepulchre, the site is not overlaid with religious iconography, structures, and hubbub; and although it can’t be taken seriously as Jesus’ tomb, for believers it nevertheless has some force as historical evidence for the Resurrection.

There is, though, a distant buzz from a nearby bus station, which will prove poignant for Bakker. As the Jerusalem Post reminded us in 2008:

 In 1987 US TV evangelist Jim Bakker’s affair with a 19-year-old church secretary led to the unraveling of his ambitious Court of the Guard project, a serene meditation and prayer garden outside Damascus Gate. Plans – for which Bakker bilked millions from his naive followers – called for the construction of an east Jerusalem Central Bus Station on Rehov Hanevi’im. The dilapidated, and still in use, Jordanian-era depot is situated next to the Garden Tomb. 

No, Hamas Has Not Admitted that the God of the Jews is Diverting their Rockets

Story from jumps from Israeli Haredi columnist to UK Jewish newspaper to US evangelical websites

Jewish Telegraph Hamas Rockets

From the UK Jewish Telegraph:

IN October, 1956, David Ben Gurion was interviewed by CBS. He stated: “In Israel, in order to be a realist, you must believe in miracles.”

But the Talmud Yerushalmi tells us that in no way are we to depend on miracles.

It argues that we must not desist from our obligations and must not wait for miraculous intervention from the Supernatural.

How perfectly relevant are both of these views today. We witness hourly miracles.

As one of the terrorists from Gaza was reported to say when asked why they couldn’t aim their rockets more effectively: “We do aim them, but their God changes their path in mid-air.”

Amen! And when our God is not busy doing that, He is ensuring that the high-tech brain power of our “start-up nation” is working overtime to produce yet another Iron Dome battery to help protect our cities and us.

The rest of the article is a vignette about life in the West Bank settlement of Ma’ale Adumim in the context of air-raid warnings, but it’s the supposed quote from “one of the terrorists from Gaza” that has caught the imagination. The on-line version of the article is headed thus:

‘God Changes the Path of our Rockets’

However, as shown above, a photograph of the print version that is doing the rounds shows a slightly different headline, which dispenses with the quote-marks:

Their God changes the path of our rockets in mid-air, said a terrorist

A banner above this adds:

Expat tells of hourly miracles that are keeping Israel safe

The author is a certain Barbara Ordman, originally from Manchester. She does not appear to be a journalist, and the source for her supposed – and inherently unlikely – quote from Gaza is not given.

It seems that the actual source (H/T Failed Messiah) is an opinion piece by a certain Chaim Cohen, writing last week on a Haredi news-site called Kikar HaShabbat. His column is in Hebrew, but Google Translate shows that the headline was something like “It’s not the Iron Dome, it’s God”. According to the author (via Google Translate, tidied up):

In a surprising interview with a Hamas representative on the global network CNN, the obvious question was asked: “After all, you claim that you have the best and most accurate missiles, so how can you then can not hurt almost anywhere in Israel?” The Hamas representative quickly replied: “Our missiles are accurate and good, but the Name [i.e. God] of the Jews diverts eighty percent of the rockets we launch into uninhabited areas, and the remaining twenty percent are intercepted by the Iron Dome”.

Alas, comments by readers after the piece point out that no such CNN interview exists.

It seems that Cohen in turn is relying on a rumour that appeared during the conflict in late 2012; several comments appeared on YNet on 19 November of that year saying the same thing (see here, here, and here; and H/T to a reader), and claiming that the interview had taken place the day before. From there it made its way onto a Facebook page relating to southern Israel. The claim was also cited on TV by Rabbi Zamir Cohen although I’m not sure when.

Ordman’s version of the same story, stripped of the bogus reference to CNN, is now going viral through conservative and Evangelical websites in the USA. Inevitably, WND is on the bandwagon (“Terrorist said to marvel at Israel’s supernatural protection”), and refers in turn to Sid Roth’s It’s Supernatural. Roth writes:

According to an article in the Jewish Telegraph, a terrorist in Gaza was asked why they couldn’t aim their rockets more effectively. In response he said, “We do aim them, but their God changes their path in mid-air.”

I believe thousands of Muslims will turn to Jesus in the Middle East soon when they see their god does not answer prayer!

Probably not quite what Chaim Cohen had in mind.

(Expanded)

Melbourne More Welcoming than Salt Lake City to World Congress of Families

Following an op-ed by Chad Griffin of the Human Rights Campaign, in which he explained why his organization regards the World Congress of Families is “hateful”, the Daily Beast’s Jay Michaelson reports on fallout in Utah:

The World Congress of Families, an umbrella group of forty-odd ‘traditional values’ organizations, announced earlier this month that their 2015 conference will be held in Salt Lake City, thanks to the financial patronage of the Sutherland Institute, a far-right think tank based there.

…Yet there are early signs that not everyone’s rolling out the welcome mat.  The conference was quietly taken off the Salt Lake City department of tourism website after HRC Director Griffin’s op-ed was published.

However, a somewhat different official attitude prevails in the State of Victoria in Australia, as the WCF prepares to descend on Melbourne. From The Age:

[Victoria Attorney-General] Robert Clark’s welcome to Melbourne address to a conference organised by a hard-right, anti-gay, anti-abortion group is consistent with the state government’s tourism agenda to attract people to Melbourne, [State] Premier Denis Napthine says.

…Dr Napthine on Wednesday downplayed Mr Clark’s decision to address the event, saying it was “quite common” for the government to have a representative at a variety of events in Melbourne and was partly about promoting the city as a destination for international conferences.

My Unpleasant Experiences With Dennis Rice, aka TabloidTroll

See also here: Peter Jukes Describes His Experiences with TabloidTroll

Introduction

For more than 18 months now, I have been subjected to sporadic online abuse and personal intrusion by Dennis Rice, aka the sockpuppet Twitter account @tabloidtroll. Comments made by Rice have included goading and unpleasant references to my loved ones (who have absolutely nothing to do with my blog), as well as grotesque and nasty allegations projected from his own behaviour, and from that of a collaborator (this man). Recently, his campaign has escalated to crank phone calls to my mother, and repeated threats – both as Rice under his own name and as @tabloidtroll – to visit her address. The most recent incident was yesterday (Monday 16 July) morning.

Why this is important

While I doubt I’m of much interest to anyone, Rice is not just a “basement troll” – as can be seen from the above, he enjoys the support and collusion of Neil Wallis, the former Deputy Editor of the News of the World. Wallis has been a familiar face in recent weeks opining on the outcome of the hacking trial and the plight of unjustly accused journalists.

Meanwhile, Rice’s own journalistic career includes stints as Chief Reporter at the Daily Express and Investigations Editor at the Mail on Sunday. My experience of his reckless dishonesty therefore has significant repercussions at a time when the morality and integrity of tabloid journalism in the UK is under close scrutiny.

Rice created the Tabloid Troll Twitter account in December 2011, apparently to fire off bile against witnesses to the Leveson Inquiry and other critics of the behaviour of tabloids – as can be seen above, a more recent target is Peter Jukes, whose upcoming book about the hacking trial, Beyond Contempt, is eagerly anticipated.

Why Rice has been trolling me

Rice is interested in me because I dared to agree with Tim Ireland’s evidence that Dennis Rice is indeed @tabloidtroll, and because I wrote a blog post that corrected Rice’s distorted account of the link between Glen Jenvey and the now-disgraced ex-MP Patrick Mercer. It should be recalled that Mercer used to promote himself by channelling terror-related scare stories given to him by Jenvey to tabloid newspapers.

Tim exposed the scheme in 2009 when the Sun published a bogus Jenvey-sourced story claiming that Alan Sugar was the target of a terror threat; Sugar subsequently received a settlement after threatening to sue the paper and Rebekah Brooks personally.

Since Rice’s attack on me, I have continued to inform other targets of @tabloidtroll – particularly professional journalists – about his behaviour and identity.

Rice’s lies

This is somewhat degrading to have to engage with, but here goes.

Rice has an associated “TabloidTroll” blog, on which he published sneering, distorted, and intrusive comments about my mother, and posted a fabricated image that purported to prove that I use a dating site (I don’t, and never have). The post falsely accused me of having a “patchy financial history and benefits record” (I don’t, but how could he legally know either way?), of supporting al-Qaeda (because I had helped uncover bogus postings to Muslim websites by Jenvey), and of “callously” writing about Jenvey (readers can judge for themselves on that point here; in fact, I had an email exchange with Jenvey during this period which shows I was in fact mindful of his situation). There was also an annoying reference to my supposed ex-partner, when in fact we are very much together and very happy.

Rice also states that I live with my mother, which he thinks is of some public interest; apparently, he regards such a domestic arrangement as not just risible, but actually discreditable. He’s been told more than once that’s it’s not actually the case anyway, but he’s persisted in pretending to believe it, as an excuse to continue to make threats to visit her address and to bother her with crank calls.

Rice attempted to justify his behaviour by claiming that I am a “troll” who was being “exposed”, rather than because I had called him out as a liar. It seemed to me to be obvious that his attack blog was bizarrely unhinged, utterly irrelevant, and published in bad faith with malicious intent. Nevertheless, Rice managed to get some traction: as seen above, Wallis eagerly spread the filth using the excuse that Rice gave him.

Is Rice TabloidTroll?

If you Google “Dennis Rice” in the UK, you will see that a number of results have been removed. Clicking on the “Chilling Effects” link, you will find an aggrieved letter by Rice to Google, written “under penalty of perjury”, in which he claims that the identification with @tabloidtroll is a “smear” and that “two police forces” have confirmed it as such. There is also a man named Andrew Roberjot (@frankiescar), who says he has met TabloidTroll and he can confirm that it’s not Rice (Wallis in turn vouches for Roberjot, calling him a “good friend & drinking buddy”).

There has also been an attempt to suggest that Tabloid Troll is a collective, although this has been half-hearted and intermittent, and cannot be taken seriously. If there is a second user, it is someone who is acting specifically to provide Rice with an alibi from time to time; Rice makes much of a Tabloidtroll Tweet that appeared when he was visiting someone in prison.

But the evidence is in fact overwhelming, despite the “alibi prison Tweet” that scared off Surrey Police when Rice was being investigated for harassing Tim. Tim found an IP correspondence; there’s also an academic linguistic analysis by Dr Nicci MacLeod from the Centre for Forensic Linguistics at Aston University that shows striking similarities between @tabloidtroll and Rice’s @dennisricemedia account.

There are also overlapping incidental details: in particular, both Twitter accounts relate a love of long-distance and marathon running, and report a nerve injury in the foot that had forced him to discontinue and then build up again (here and here for @tabloidtroll in late 2012 and early 2013; here for @dennisricemedia in early 2014). On one occasion, TabloidTroll said that he had “noticed” Tim looking for his photo on Linkedin; but this could only mean that TabloidTroll had “noticed” Tim looking at Rice’s profile. More generally, Rice and TabloidTroll write with the same voice, echoing each other’s attacks and talking points.

There is also a wealth of other evidence, which I will not go into here for now.

(It’s also worth mentioning that Rice makes some effort to put people off the scent: for example, one @tabloidtroll Tweet purports to show TabloidTroll’s wife or girlfriend, but the image is actually of an American webcam model named Lana Brooke; found via Google image search, before you ask).

Conclusion

If Rice has been misrepresented in the above, I look forward to hearing from his lawyers, or perhaps receiving a private appeal for me to reconsider.

But if the above is a true account, I will instead expect a new round of sockpuppet abuse and calumny.

UPDATE (Later same day)

As expected, Rice has spent the afternoon firing bile in my direction. On the one hand,  I’m apparently an insignificant figure who “hasn’t amounted to anything”, yet the whole world needs to hear the important information that I’m supposedly “lying through” my “yellowing teeth about not living with Mum”.

Why he’s so invested in this fantasy about my domestic arrangements is anyone’s guess; although I don’t actually live with my mother, plenty of adults do share a property with a parent for all kinds of reasons. In my own case – not that it’s anyone’s business, or likely to be of any interest to anyone – my partner and I did reside at my mother’s address for a while after returning from living abroad; presumably he’s found this scandalous detail from some outdated public record. Rice is so obsessed with the subject that he appears to have bought a copy of deeds from the Land Registry, to determine ownership – so it’s a bit rich that he once accused Peter Jukes of being a “stalker” for having looked at his Linkedin profile.

Meanwhile, Roberjot isn’t happy about being mentioned in this post, and he has written to me on Twitter:

In my opinion, your latest crap has passed over the line regarding me and Neil, I shall refer on for a better legal opinion

Roberjot then went on to deny that this was a threat of legal action; Roberjot has a tedious habit of making threats, then denying, in mocking terms, of having done any such thing.

UPDATE 2 (18 July):

The matter was brought to Neil Wallis’s attention via Twitter. Unsurprisingly, as a national media figure he didn’t feel the need to acknowledge he’d even seen my Tweets or blog, let alone attempt to justify why he felt it was acceptable to amplify baseless lies and intrusion aimed at my family.

However, he was also tackled by Peter Jukes, who asked him what he thought about Rice’s constant threats and bullying behaviour. It appears that the whole thing was such an insignificant distraction for Wallis that he decided to engage in faux-obtuse banter rather than quickly make his position clear and move on:

Peter Jukes: @neilwallis1 @nigelpauley I notice Neil hasn’t responded to this. New threats today [Link]

Neil Wallis: Why so obsessed with me, @peterjukes?! What’s it to do with me?! [...]

Peter Jukes: @neilwallis1 Since you’d praised TT in the past, I just hoped you’d disavow such tactics.

Neil Wallis:  [...] Peter, I’ve praised you in the past…!

Neil Wallis: ‏@peterjukes why u obsessed in involving me in things I know nothing about, where I’ve no idea of the background? Why you so sanctimonious?!

UPDATE 3 (31 July):

Tim Ireland has published details about Rice’s attempt to interfere with his work and private life here: Dennis Rice and his conduct as ‘’@TabloidTroll’.

The Rainbow Belongs to God: The British Connection

There has been a certain amount of hilarity in recent weeks over Scott Lively’s promotion of a ludicrous anti-gay song called The Rainbow Belongs to God, following its appearance on John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight show.

Lively explained the background back in June:

It was written my friend Johny Noer, a Danish pastor living in the Negev Desert of Israel, and performed by the very talented singer/composer Signe Walsoe.  Johny was an attendee and guest lecturer at my Bible seminar in England last fall and was inspired by my article/strategy “The Rainbow Belongs to God” which I created to encourage the Russians to reclaim the rainbow as a Christian symbol during the Winter Olympics.

This followed Lively railing against the gay “appropriation” of the rainbow the previous September, on the birther conspiracy website WND:

The rainbow belongs to God and was created by Him as a symbol of His authority over creation. Revelation 4:3 describes a rainbow around His throne in heaven. Genesis 9:13-15 declares that He placed the rainbow in the sky as a promise to never again punish the earth by flood. Then in Genesis 19 He gave a preview of the future destruction of the earth by fire – by incinerating Sodom and Gomorrah. Both Peter and Jude remind us that the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah was a warning to all generations not to follow the gross sexual immorality of those cities (1 Peter 2:6, Jude 1:7).

Who were the sinners of Sodom that prophesy warns will rise again in the end times to dominate society (Romans 1:26-32 and 1 Timothy 3:1-9)? They were first called “Sodomites,” then “homosexuals,” and now “gays.” Their movement has adopted the rainbow flag as an act of defiance against God, and their final attempt to sanitize their sin is to wrap themselves in His own cloak.

Presumably, this was also Lively’s theme at his Bible seminar in England; details of his visit are scarce, although it appears that the UK Christian Right lobby group Christian Concern was involved: Noer writes on his website of meeting Christian Concern head Andrea Minichello Williams in London in September 2013, and of travelling to a location called “The White House” in Bournemouth. Meanwhile, a certain Naomi King left a comment on Cranmer‘s website saying that she had seen Lively in Bournemouth around the same time. The event was apparently an epic 10 days long.

While he was in the UK, Lively provided Christian Concern with an exclusive video interview, which seems to have taken place in Williams’ own home (the sofa appears in a 2008 documentary on the UK Christian Right). There are also other links between Christian Concern and Lively: Christian Concern’s barrister of choice Paul Diamond has appeared at a event alongside Lively in Massachusetts, and Williams’ recent visit to Jamaica – where she reportedly urged a crowd to link homosexuality with paedophilia – also included input from Lively’s associate Peter La Barbera.

Williams also has her own links with Johny Noer – she can be seen addressing a Danish audience alongside Noer here, with the help of an interpreter. In true British style, she facilitates communication by speaking very slowly and somewhat loudly (and for some reason, links to this video and to two others involving Williams were recently deleted from Noer’s website).

Noer’s song is a bizarre mix of evangelical-chorus sentimentality and apocalyptic fury: the singer, Signe Walsøe, asks “who is the one that dares to try to wipe God’s promise away?” and explains that “The rainbow belongs to God, untouched by evil DESIRE”, at which point the video turns a lurid and unhealthy green. Clearly inspired by Lively’s linking of of the Noah narrative with Sodom and Gomorrah (and Robert Frost’s sense of rhyme), she continues:

Who is one who dares to doubt, God’s warning: that next time is fire! Ohhhh, fire! Ohhhh, next time is fire!

Walsøe has since been somewhat aggrieved by “pretty hateful comments” about the song and her performance.

For those looking for other collaborations between Noer and Walsøe, there’s also “The Temple Shall Be Built Again.” Noer believes that the European Union will form an “aggressive army” that will later become a global army and attack Israel. The plan also includes “Darwin’s theory of evolution, which discards God as Creator”, and “The enforcing of a homosexual society, which will persecute all Bible-believing Christians”.

Some Notes on George Clooney, the Druze, and the Daily Mail

This one has gone global; from USA Today:

[George] Clooney, 53, is refuting a Daily Mail story that says Baria Alamuddin, his future mother-in-law, is against the impending marriage for religious reasons.

The story quotes unnamed sources as saying that Baria, a journalist and broadcaster in the Middle East and the United Kingdom, thinks her daughter “can do better” than Clooney, specifically by marrying into the family’s Druze religion. The story says Baria has been saying as much to friends in Beirut, where Amal was born.

“First of all, factually none of the story is true,” says Clooney in an exclusive statement to USA TODAY. “Amal’s mother is not Druze. She has not been to Beirut since Amal and I have been dating, and she is in no way against the marriage, but none of that is the issue… The irresponsibility, in this day and age, to exploit religious differences where none exist, is at the very least negligent and more appropriately dangerous.”

In the wake of Clooney’s withering rebuttal, the Mail has issued an apology, in which the paper passes the buck to “a reputable and trusted freelance journalist” who had “based her story on conversations with a long standing contact who has strong connections with senior members of the Lebanese community in the UK and the Druze in Beirut.” [see also UPDATE below] The article was co-authored by the freelancer along with a Mail showbiz hack; the freelancer has discreetly deleted a Tweet in which she announced her “exclusive”.

However, Press Gazette editor Dominic Ponsford asks:

The big question for me is why didn’t Mail Online put in a call about the story? Clooney must have plenty of PR handlers and it would be easy enough for Mail Online to make a check, but it does not appear to have done so.

And a further problem for the Mail is that although it may make some mistakes “in good faith”, as the apology claims,  the paper and its website also fabulate wildly. Clooney himself cites three other stories about himself, including one which said the wedding would take place at Highclere Castle, famous as the filming location for Downton Abbey.

Ponsford also notes a detail that appeared on Mail Online, but in not the printed Daily Mail:

There can be harsh penalties for those Druze who marry outsiders. Several women have been murdered for disobeying the rules. Last year a Sunni Muslim man had his penis severed by the male relatives of a Druze woman who defied her family by marrying him.

The friend added: ‘There have a been a few jokes in the family about the same thing happening to George!’

Clooney took particular exception to the implication that his own bride could be killed.

The story about the severed penis refers to an incident in Baysour in Lebanon, in which relatives of a Druze woman named Roudayna Malaeb cut off her husband’s penis and pulled out his teeth after they married in defiance of her parents’ wishes. NOW Lebanon has some context on sectarian marriage:

Sheikh Sami Abi al-Mouna, president of the Druze Sectarian Council’s cultural committee, told NOW…: “When raising his/her children, a Druze strives to convince them of the need to marry a fellow Druze for the same of society’ stability and coherence, thus securing its future.”

“If inter-faith marriage occurs within the community, it is dealt with in such a way as to preserve one’s dignity. We do not make threats or deal with the person who marries outside the community with harshness, but guidance is our duty.” Coexistence, he added, “happens through politics and political parties that are not affiliated with any religion, rather than within religions and inter-faith marriage.”

Traditionally, a Druze man who marries out is shunned, while a woman who marries out will be in danger due to beliefs about honour, shame and parental control. But the key word here is “traditionally” – Malaeb’s husband was sexually mutilated because of her parents’ culture, but it appears that culturally modernized Druze with high social capital have different values and more leeway when it comes to patterns of behaviour. The Lebanese Druze political leader Walid Jumblatt is a respected figure despite marrying out, and this is also the case with Clooney’s prospective father-in-law. A Now article from the end of April notes:

Sheikh Akram Eid, a longtime family friend of the Alamuddins, told NOW that Amal was born to Ramzi Alamuddin and his wife Baaria Meknas, a Sunni from Tripoli. Ramzi was the son of Khalil Alamuddin, who used to serve as the head of the Baaqline municipality. “[Khalil] was respected and loved,” Eid said. He told NOW that the Alamuddin family was well-known and respected in Baaqline. “Their old history is even better than their present.”

“The Alamuddins are from the sheikhs of Baaqline. They’re a really old family,” said Hamadi. “They’re like the house of Jumblatt, Arslan – these families have a certain level in our sect.”

No sign of any social ostracism or scandal there – and, as Clooney indicates, it makes a nonsense of the Mail‘s claim that Baria, “a Sunni from Tripoli”, would object to her daughter marrying a non-Druze.

Israel’s Weekly Standard added a few weeks later:

Jumblatt welcomes the Clooney-Alamuddin announcement as rare good news. He is eager, he wrote me in an email, to throw a party for the actor at his ancestral home in the Chouf Mountains. “Tell me when George Clooney will be coming to Lebanon so I can greet him in Moukhtara. I will bring a delegation of Druze sheikhs,” Jumblatt gushed. “As for Amal Alamuddin, well, she is lucky.”

The Standard also referred to the penis-severing incident, but added details of Jumblatt’s excoriating denunciation of what had happened at Baysour; Haaretz then followed up with a similar piece, entitled “Lebanon’s Druze leader welcomes George Clooney into community”. I strongly suspect that one of these two articles was the Mail authors’ source for their own “severed penis” sensationalism – but that they chose to ignore all the wider evidence in those pieces that Clooney marrying a Druze is not problem for her family.

UPDATE: In a follow-up column, Clooney notes an inconsistency between the apology’s reference to “a long standing contact who has strong connections with senior members of the Lebanese community” as the freelancer’s source, and the original article’s claim that the journalist had spoken with a “family friend”. He also points out that a previous Mail article showed that the paper knew already that Baria is not a Druze.

His verdict:

What separates this from all of the ridiculous things the Mail makes up is that now, by their own admission, it can be proved to be a lie. In fact, a premeditated lie.

Someone Pretends to be a Daily Mail Journalist Pretending to be an Jihadi

Richard Ferrer writes, at the Independent:

This week I became the story. I was called a “slimy Jew”, a “rabid zionist” and “filthy racist scum”.

It started on Saturday night when sinister tweets began appearing on my timeline, claiming I’d been “tripped up”, had “got my comeuppance” and been a “naughty boy”.

Next came a barrage of links to a message board on Muslim website Ummah.com. The top post was headed: “i am pledging allegiance to the caliphate”.

It read: “salam my sisters and brothers we should get out of this evil country and pledge our allegiance to the Muslim sharia law and get out of evil west. who wants to join me so we can wage war and jihad against the corrupt west.”

A computer boffin identified the message had originated from the IP address address Richard.Ferrer@dailymail.co.uk.

The post was made by a new forum member, using the name “abuaisha10″; shortly thereafter, a second poster asked why abuaisha10’s registration IP resolved to “Evening Standard Newspaper”. A third poster then added: “It says dailymail for me Hostname: mos.integration.dailymail.co.uk”, and linked the alleged IP  – 195.234.240.212 – to “richard.ferrer.dailymail.co.uk” (Ferrer has mistakenly turned this sub-domain into an email address).

For some reason, there is an eveningstandard.uk domain that was registered to Northcliffe House (the Mail‘s address) last month, which explains the confusion over whether the IP is associated with the Evening Standard or the Mail (H/T Unity); however, the bigger false lead was to link the IP to Ferrer. As Unity points out, the IP is actually resolves to a gateway server for sub-domains attached to many names associated with the Mail – and Ferrer left the paper six years ago.

So was it someone else at the Mail? Apparently not; according to Ferrer:

Next day, on Monday morning, the Daily Mail confirmed the message had not been sent from its offices and I was no longer on their IT database. In fact, after six years they didn’t have a clue who I was.

This suggests the IP was faked in some way. Ferrer adds:

My best guess is the author was keen to kill two birds with one stone by publicly defaming a Jewish journalist and the Daily Mail in one fell swoop. It was almost Mission Accomplished.

Perhaps, although the naming of Ferrer may have been a genuine error rather than an act of malice – repeated lookups of the IP data yield different a name each time, apparently randomly (H/T Tim Ireland). There may also be other motives: for instance, it’s possible that someone wanted to whip up a bogus anti-Daily Mail furore that they knew would eventually fall apart and embarrass those who had invested in it.

Certainly, impersonating a Muslim extremist on a forum would be a breathtakingly stupid thing for any journalist to do in the wake of 2009’s “Terror Target Sugar” fiasco, which ended with a substantial payout to Sugar from the Sun (Sugar also threatened to sue Rebeka Brooks personally) and an arrest.

Mega-Mosque “Intimidation” Mystery

A few weeks ago, Douglas Murray of the Gatestone Institute repeated a claim that a Muslim campaigner who had spoken out against plans for a large Tablighi Jamaat mosque in east London had withdrawn from a public inquiry due to alleged “witness intimidation”:

Tehmina Kazi is a member [actually Director - RB] of British Muslims for Secular Democracy, a small but significant voice in the effort to break the stranglehold of the fundamentalists in British Islam… At a previous inquiry into the mega-mosque in 2011, Kazi said in her Proof of Evidence, “The Tablighi Jamaat discourages integration into British society, especially of female members, since they essentially do not communicate with non-Muslims … Instead, female members… are kept secluded and the values surrounding this seclusion are transmitted to their children.”

Now she says that, “Withdrawing was a decision I did not undertake lightly. I did it after consultation with several trusted people and a number of assurances on women’s increased participation and involvement in the new facility.”

…According to Alan Craig [of the Christian People's Alliance], Kazi withdrew because she was “harried and pressured” by “misogynist mosque supporters” while on holiday abroad, just before the inquiry opened. Jenny Taylor of Lapido Media — who has followed this case as closely as anyone — has spoken with Kazi, who has insisted that she had “been neither harried nor pressured but had accepted the reassurances she had been given about the place of women in the mega-mosque community.” Taylor has concluded that the person who persuaded Kazi not to testify was one Mudasser Ahmed.

That quote in which Kazi insists that she was not intimidated was actually given to Ruth Gledhill, and was afterwards cited by Taylor. Craig’s contrasting claim was also earlier repeated by Christian Concern.

Kazi’s on-the-record statement seems clear enough. As Director of BMSD, it’s her job to say what she thinks about the place of Islam in British life, and to argue against authoritarian and supremacist trends among British Muslims. And she’s always been very clear  that she is committed to speaking freely: back in March, she was quoted as telling the National Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secular Student Societies that “the more of us that speak out, the harder it is for Islamists to silence us”.

It seems most unlikely that she would be cowed into withdrawing, let alone into making a statement to a journalist that does not reflect her true views – and a bit of basic googling shows that the man named by Murray is a mainstream figure whose Unitas Communications company (“a specialist public relations, reputation management and digital communications agency”) appears to be perfectly respectable. Indeed, Kazi has herself worked with Unitas: in its 2012 submission to the Leveson Inquiry (entitled Race and Reform: Islam and Muslims in the British Media), she is described variously as a “consultant”; as a “campaigner for progressive Islam and women’s rights”; and as a “community leader”.

Sunny Hundal argued that Kazi should be taken at her word, and he criticised “the misrepresentation and spinning of a leading liberal Muslim woman’s opinion, just because it doesn’t fit the narrative of some right-wingers”. This prompted Craig to publish details of his communication with Kazi:

The previous Saturday afternoon she had called me, deeply distressed, from her holiday break abroad to tell me that Muddassar Ahmed was pressurising her (“intimidating” was her exact word) to withdraw. She said that Muddassar claimed he had obtained reassurances from Tablighi Jamaat that they would treat women better in future, and he promised Tehmina “they will continue to become more liberal under his influence.”

…”Muddassar is not som1 u want as an enemy – he is 2 well connected in the community,” she texted me in messages that are still on my phone. “Really sorry Muddassar has put you under such pressure and intimidation,” I replied, to which she texted “I’m still shocked that hes supporting them as his wife N***** P***** (my asterisks) is a feminist.”

“It (Muddassar’s intervention) has ruined my break,” she texted further. “It’s always left to me to stick my head above the parapet – I wish others would do so 4 a change,” she added.

So we now have a real and perplexing contradiction between what Kazi told Gledhill and what she apparently told Craig privately. For Craig, of course, her denials are simply further proof of intimidation, but the nature of the supposed hold over her remains somewhat opaque and the image of Kazi being intimidated by Unitas is inherently implausible. Also, the “holiday break abroad” element is difficult to understand: no-one likes to be troubled by work-related matters while on vacation, but if you make yourself available while away you can’t complain about people contacting you.

Kazi enjoys cross-political goodwill: the argument between Sunny, who is a liberal, and Craig, who is a conservative evangelical, has been played out on the shared ground that her views ought to be respected and presented truthfully. The discrepancy in her two statements is troubling.

Geoffrey Dickens: Child Abuse Claims and Satanic Panic

The BBC reports:

The Home Office is facing calls to explain why a 1980s dossier about alleged paedophiles at Westminster was “not retained or destroyed”.

The document was handed to then Home Secretary Leon Brittan by Tory MP Geoffrey Dickens.

Lord Brittan passed concerns in it to the relevant authorities, but the file itself was not kept.

…The Home Office said a 2013 review found the “credible” elements of the dossier which had “realistic potential” for further investigation were sent to police and prosecutors while other elements were either “not retained or destroyed”.

The fact that Dickens gave a dossier to Brittan is old news; in 1983 Dickens announced his intention to give him “a glimpse inside my private files, where people have written to me with information”. Elements of the dossier may indeed have been “credible”, but it’s likely that anything valuable was hidden among dross: most of the news reports on the subject out today appear to have overlooked the important detail that Dickens was an extravagant conspiracy theorist who helped to contribute to the “Satanic panics” that emerged in the UK just a few years later.

Here’s one report, from 1988:

Young people are in danger from the effects of witchcraft which is “sweeping the country,” Mr Geoffrey Dickens, the Tory campaigner against child abuse, warned in the Commons yesterday… Mr Dickens said outside the Commons that now he would be pressing for – or possibly himself introducing – a Bill to make to make it illegal to practise witchcraft, and empowering courts to pass heavy custodial sentences…. “If we are to protect children from their sordid, sexual and diabolical grasp, we must bring in new laws to wipe witches off the face of the earth”.

And from later the same year:

Babies and young children were being sacrified to the Devil in witchcraft rituals all over Britain, according to Tory MP Mr Geoffrey Dickens….

“Six hundred children go missing every year. At least 50 of these children are simply never found again…. With witchcraft sacrifice nothing is ever found”

Dickens also wrote the foreword to a bogus ex-Satanist memoir by a woman named Audrey Harper, called Dance with the Devil. Harper claimed to have been inducted into a Satanic coven in Virginia Water, in a ceremony which involved being smeared with blood; in her original version of the story the blood had come from a sacrificed cockerel, although she later substituted the dead bird in the story with a murdered baby. There’s a good account of the context of Dickens’ endorsement on a website called Swallowing the Camel:

Geoffrey Dickens latched on to Audrey Harper immediately, supporting her and helping her spread the news that, to her knowledge, English Satanists were still sacrificing children… Complaining that “perverted cults which worship the devil can freely publish guides on how to dabble in the occult,” he opined, “The Home Office must act.” He worked closely with Childwatch, a Hull-based organization that used every opportunity to warn the public about Satanic ritual abuse in England. Its founder, Diane Core, declared that up to 4000 English children were being sacrificed by Satanists annually. She publicly aired bizarre stories from alleged SRA survivors, like the “breeder” who claimed her cult froze sacrificed babies so members could defrost and eat them later.

A full account of Dickens’ antics is available from Chris Bray on The Pagan Library, including details of another “dossier”:

AUGUST 17 1988: The Sport has two page article ‘SAVE MY BABY FROM SATAN’ and includes what are to become familiar quotes from Dianne Core and Geoffrey Dickens… Dickens announces that his ‘dossier’ naming ‘perverted members of a sinister Satan Cult’ HAS GONE MISSING ON ITS WAY TO THE HOUSE OF COMMONS. “The sensational Document was passed to CHILDWATCH supremo Dianne Core by a terrified defector from the mysterious O.T.O. whose depraved rituals end in unbridled black magic orgies of sex and violence”. Core sent the dossier to Dickens but ‘ the package whose full contents could have blown British society apart’ – never arrived. Not only are we supposed to believe that such valuable information was sent through the post without registering or recording the package but that Dicken’s Dossier became iretrievably lost in the post. We are expected to believe that no-one thought of making a copy of any part of such valuable information before it was sent as a safeguard against loss and that the people who originally donated the information had also not kept copies and are, furthermore, completely unable to re-construct the data…

AUGUST 24 1988: Hull Daily Mail reports that Dickens’ claims his life is being threatened by vengeful satanists but that he pledges to carry on the fight against black magic rituals and is building up yet another file to present to the Home Secretary. “Evidence is growing of witchcraft & crimes against children” Dickens says but has in 13 months NEVER presented any evidence.

This sort of thing suggests that Dickens’ earlier dossier on child abuse is likely to have been a rather problematic collection of documents.

For all his many faults, Dickens was an energetic campaigner against child sex abuse, and it’s actually rather sad that his efforts became so misdirected  He vociferously opposed the Paedophile Information Exchange, a lobby group that attached itself to gay rights campaigns in the 1970s; the Labour Party and the left’s complacency about and collusion with the organisation has recently come back to haunt it. We also now know that some prominent individuals in British public life were indeed allowed to get away with abusing children to an astonishing extent; in some cases due to extraordinary police negligence, and in other instances for murkier reasons (the politician Cyril Smith appears to have been “protected” by the security services, who would have expected Smith to assist them politically in return).

But Dickens ended up wasting his energy, diminishing his credibility, and causing real harm to innocent people, through a lurid obsession with the occult.

Excursus

Might renewed interest in Dickens’ dossier lead to a new “Satanic panic”? I’m doubtful: although people are willing to seize on ill-founded accusations (as I discussed here) and indulge in the most absurd conspiracy-mongering, there’s now so much material in the news about real paedophiles to work with that the notion of Satanic cults is actually superfluous.

But there are signs of some renewed interest in Satanic ritual abuse; RT (formerly Russia Today) has recently published an article by the 9/11 Truther Tony Gosling alleging that it is being covered up by… erm, Private Eye magazine:

On the really big international scandals, Private Eye cover up for the establishment…In the Jimmy Savile story, despite testimony of ritual abuse ‘The Eye’ mocked psychotherapist Valerie Sinason and other professionals who supported the victims.

…Psychotherapist Valerie Sinason had been talking for years, to anyone who would listen, about Savile. She personally interviewed two of his victims in her London based ‘Clinic for Dissociative Studies’ who told her at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Buckinghamshire that they had been repeatedly sexually abused in horrific rituals they described as ‘satanic.’

This refers to a story that appeared in the Sunday Express at the start of 2013, headlined “Jimmy Savile Was Part of Satanic Ring”. According to the report, Sinason had two patients in the early 1990s who told her that they had been abused by Savile during Satanic rituals. The Express article is based entirely on Sinason’s testimony, and it’s significant that none of Savile’s victims who have gone on record have claimed there was a Satanic ritual element to their abuse.

One possibility, it seems to me, is that genuine Savile victims may have had the notion of a Satanic element suggested to them by a psychotherapist obsessed with the subject. Sinason says she doesn’t use “recovered memory” techniques, but one can see how vulnerable adults may have sinister ideas planted in their heads. Here she is in 2011, interviewed by Will Storr for the Guardian:

“I’m an analytic therapist,” she says. “The idea of that is someone showing, through their behaviour, that all sorts of things might have happened to them.” Signs that a patient has suffered satanically include flinching at green or purple objects, the colours of the high priest and priestess’s robes. “And if someone shudders when they enter a room, you know it’s not ordinary incest.”

Another warning, she says, is the patient saying: “I don’t know.” “What they really mean is: ‘I can’t bear to say.'” A patient who “overpraises” their family is also suspicious. “The more insecure you are, the more you praise. ‘Oh my family was wonderful! I can’t remember any of it!'”

Private Eye has been raising concerns about Sinason’s methods for some time.

All this is apparently of interest to Gosling because Private Eye refused to consider his evidence that Israel was responsible for the 7/7 bombings.

Christian Concern Italia

UK religious right group Christian Concern has published a short video interview with Giuliano Palma, who heads an affiliate group called Christian Concern Italia. Like Christian Concern’s CEO Andrea Minichiello Williams (previously blogged by me here), Palma is a lawyer with an interest in religious cases, and he came into contact with Williams while representing a client in Dover. In the interview, Palma discusses legal obstacles faced by Italian Protestants, such as problems getting authorizations for religious marriages, and he complains that the Pope’s recent prayer meeting with Shimon Peres and Mahmoud Abbas also included the head of the Orthodox Church but not any Italian Protestant representatives.

Palma’s website shows that Christian Concern Italia was established in 2012, and there are some photos from a conference, although the speakers are unidentified. His firm, Palma & Parners, is based in Naples, but has a London address care of Camerons Solicitors of Wimpole Street; Camerons represents, on a pro bono basis, the Christian Legal Centre, which is Christian Concern’s legal arm, as well as Christian Concern itself. A lawyer based at Camerons, Paul Coleman, formerly advised Christian Concern before taking up a position as legal counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom (previously called the Alliance Defense Fund) at its office in Vienna. The ADF is a high-profile religious right group in the USA, which also has links with Christian Concern.