Dennis Rice and Police Intimidation: How Thames Valley Police Sought to Censor Criticism of a Tabloid Journalist

In early October 2014, I was summoned to a police interview a hundred miles from my home to answer a complaint by a tabloid journalist that he had been upset by true and relevant information that I had written about him on this blog and on Twitter. The journalist, Dennis Rice, was formerly Investigations Editor at the Mail on Sunday, and he wanted the police to stop me from discussing his behaviour, including details of how he had attempted to bully me via nasty, intrusive and untrue comments published under a sockpuppet name, as well as through unwanted phone calls to a member of my family (background here).

The investigation was dropped two days later, but the incident shows that – for whatever reason – Thames Valley Police were willing to indulge an aggressive journalist’s baseless demand for censorship on the mere assertion of “distress”, without any regard for context or even common sense.

First, some background.

Dennis Rice and TabloidTroll

There is now no argument over whether Dennis Rice ran the abusive and bullying @tabloidtroll Twitter account, despite his indignant and aggrieved denials; a brief outline of some of the evidence can be seen here. The Twitter account was supposedly created to offer media commentary by “a number of anonymous national newspaper journalists”, although it was actually a one-man platform from which Rice fired off vituperative Tweets against critics of tabloid standards such as Tom Watson MP and Richard Peppiatt, as well as other targets. I should emphasise that “TabloidTroll” wasn’t just a legitimate pseudonym: Rice used his @dennisricemedia account to endorse himself as @tabloidtroll, meaning it was a sockpuppet.

Rice has a grudge against me for agreeing with the evidence that he was TabloidTroll, and in 2013 he hid behind his sockpuppet to post a deeply unpleasant attack blog aimed not just at me, but at my loved ones (who have nothing to do with this blog). His post consisted of lies and distortions, and Rice even went so far as to publish a fake screenshot that purported to show that I use a dating site (I don’t, and never have). Given that Rice is a national journalist, most recently working for Channel 4’s Dispatches as a freelance producer, this reckless dishonesty is of some wider significance.

Another of Rice’s targets was the author Peter Jukes, who has written about Rice’s behaviour in his book Beyond Contempt. Rice – both under his own name and as TabloidTroll – affected to take offence at something that Peter had written, and he used this as an excuse to issue threats (both as Dennis Rice and as TabloidTroll) to investigate Peter’s finances and family. The threats were made in a gratuitously goading and unpleasant manner, which again reflects poorly on his professionalism: as @dennisricemedia, he mocked Peter as “wetting your pants when a real journalist turns his gaze on you”. Rice also formed an alliance with Paul Staines (Guido Fawkes) and his associates in attempts to smear Peter, as Peter has now discussed here.

Rice upped his aggression against me throughout 2014, first of all by making two phone calls to a relative. The first call came when Rice learnt that I had appraised the editor of Independent Australia, David Donovan, of Rice’s antics; the second was after I “Favourited” a Tweet in which Owen Jones asked the question “@tabloidtroll @dennisricemedia why are you tweeting yourself?” Rice phoned my relative on a Saturday evening, told her I had “better be” at her address on a certain date, and then hung up. As a result of his, he was warned by police to desist.

From July, I began to discuss Rice’s behaviour publicly with other social media users who had been targeted by him for one reason or another. In particular, I noted the irony that a man who had made what can fairly be described as a crank call had also been the co-producer of a recent Channel 4 Dispatches programme (directed by Jim Nally for ITN Productions) about nuisance fundraising phone calls by charities. I also confirmed that a photo of Rice published some time ago on a Flikr page belonging to Press Gazette was actually the right person – Rice has made repeated threats to confront me and others, and so I had made some effort to find out what he looks like. Rice used to be on the National Executive Committee of the British Association of Journalists, and his image appears on an archived version of the BAJ website.

Rice quickly got in touch threatening a libel action, warning that he was “incurring substantial legal costs” that I would have to pay (incidentally, when someone goes on about costs as part of a legal threat, it’s a good indication of bad faith). However, this failed to materialise, and Rice then switched to “harassment”. He paid £105 to make a small claim in the civil courts for damages, although the case was struck out without coming to court. Rice also turned to the police.

Rice makes a police complaint

Rice lodged his complaint about me at High Wycombe. As result of this, I was issued with a Police Information Notice in mid-September, delivered by a local officer. It included the following:

Details of alleged conduct (specific actions that are cause for complaint):

Unwanted online contact through social media (mainly twitter and Bartholomew’s personal blogs) to Dennis RICE since August 2nd 2014. Contrary to the Protection from Harrasment [sic] Act.

Do not contact RICE directly, indirectly or name him on social media. lf this behaviour continues you will be liable for arrest and possible prosecution.

…Harassment is any behaviour, on at least two occasions, which causes alarm or distress to someone else.

This notice left out the important qualifier that in law “alarm or distress” needs to be balanced against whether the conduct complained about was reasonable, and it ignored clear and extensive CPS guidelines about handling complaints concerning social media. I have no idea whether Rice had truly felt “alarm or distress” at being held accountable for his lies and bullying, but if he did it was the natural and predictable consequence of his own behaviour.

The PIN was self-evidently censorship, but it was also a smear: shortly thereafter it was gleefully announced by various parties on Twitter that I had been given a “harassment warning”. Leading the mob was Nadine Dorries, who has a long history of making bogus “stalker” accusations to discourage criticism and scrutiny; she dislikes this site for her own reasons, and Rice is in private communication with her. She wrote:

This was shortly after she had made lurid and false allegations against a friend of mine in the Mail on Sunday, and the obvious implication was that this development was part of the same story [UPDATE: background here]; indeed, I suspect Rice and Dorries were coordinating their actions. However, she clarified what she meant shortly thereafter:

However, it was not in fact a case of “#netclosing” – a PIN is simply a notification that a complaint has been made. The implication read into it by Rice and Dorries and their supporters was that the police had taken the view that I had broken the law, and that the PIN was akin to a police caution. Behind the scenes, Rice was also boasting that he had been given an assurance that I would be “criminally charged” if I dared to mention him again, and that PINs would be issued to anyone else who dared bring up the subject of his behaviour.

Summoned to a police interview

I was now in a Kafkaesque situation: the PIN was being bandied about as evidence that I was a criminal, yet if I defended myself the police would take things further and that would confirm my guilt even more on the principle of “no smoke without fire”. I decided to take my chances. On Twitter, I briefly explained the actual context and waited for the police to call. I was duly asked to attend a supposedly “voluntary” interview under caution, although this was a peculiar use of the word “voluntary”: I was told that I would be arrested unless I complied. So, I agreed to attend – and as the day approached, goading anonymous messages about tourism in High Wycombe appeared on an anonymous troll account.

Ahead of the interview, I showed my writings to my legal representative, a specialist from Bindmans who confirmed what I knew already: that I had written nothing that broke any law. As a journalist, Rice is a public figure, and he had chosen to place himself into the centre of a public controversy. My representative also told me that in his opinion, I had been threatened with wrongful arrest.

Along with Rice’s complaints about my public writing, he also apparently claimed to have received a anonymous menacing email. That had nothing at all to do with me (I reject anything of that sort), and the police had no evidence to suggest otherwise. The whole case otherwise rested simply on how my public statements about Rice should be interpreted.

But the police had no more evidence to work with after my interview than they had before it. In making their decision to drop the matter, the police had only one extra piece of information to ponder: that I had access to top-quality legal representation.

The obvious question: if there was not enough evidence to proceed to prosecution, why had there been enough evidence to waste taxpayers’ money pursuing me in the first place?

My discussions of Rice’s behaviour are all still available online and can be assessed by anyone on their own merits. There is nothing that approaches “trolling” or “harassment”, and I continue to stand by every word as being truthful, relevant to the public interest,  necessary in order to protect my own reputation from falsehoods, and expressed in a way that is credible and reasonable. The police could have come to the same conclusion without needing to involve me at all.

I don’t know what went wrong here. In 2008, when the writer Oliver Kamm was the object of a police complaint from someone who objected a scathing book review, the matter was looked into, but dealt with proportionately via a phone call.

Is it simply the case that six years on, amidst media publicity about “trolling”, the police have lost all perspective when it comes to assessing the validity of any social media-related complaint? Or did Rice’s status as a national journalist afford him special consideration?

My complaint to police

Following this incident, I made a formal complaint to Thames Valley Police, both about the decision to issue the PIN and the threat of arrest. So far, their response has been confined to legal generalities about police powers, and there has been no attempt to justify operational decisions. Unexpectedly, I’ve been told that the police don’t need to review the decision to issue the PIN as PINs are meaningless anyway. My attention was drawn to Parliamentary Publications and Records website:

These notices are not provided for in the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 and do not in themselves constitute any kind of formal legal action. Therefore there is no formal police procedure which must be followed, and no set time limit during which they have effect. Because acknowledging receipt of a Police Information Notice does not mean that the recipient is admitting any wrongdoing, there is no right of appeal. If a person is unhappy about the fact that the warning was issued, he or she could complain to the police force or to the Independent Police Complaints Commission. Specific legal advice from a suitably qualified professional would be necessary if a recipient wished to check the implications of the PIN for future action they might wish to take.

The potential for abuse here is enormous – and the problems around PINs are discussed here in a 2010 Guardian article by Emma Norton of Liberty.

Oddly, at the same time that my complaint was being considered, the Chief Constable of Thames Valley Police, Sara Thornton, was giving evidence in Parliament to the Home Affairs Committee as part of an inquiry into PINs. Thornton specifically rejected a suggestion that officers are “trigger happy” when it comes to issuing PINs. If my experience is anything to go by, her denial does not reflect the true situation.

(expanded)

Boykin and Saleem Imagine “Powerful Network Dedicated to Fighting Global Jihad”

From the blurb for The Coalition, a new novel from “Jerry” Boykin and Kamal Saleem:

Our story is set in the not-too-distant future. Muslims have succeeded in becoming the majority of several European populations, adding to their dominance in the Middle East. With the accelerating spread of radical Islam and Sharia law as the backdrop, our character-driven novel tells the story of a divided world and two men who epitomize the ideological chasm…

The Sodality, (operating publically as Global Reparations, an NGO) was formed by a small group of mostly American retired military leaders, businessmen, politicians, and ministers. What started as a loose connection of friends and colleagues crystallized into a powerful network dedicated to fighting the onslaught of global jihad and those conspiring with them for their own agendas.

Based in the Czech Republic with facilities in fifteen locations worldwide, the Sodality runs missions ranging from sabotaging terrorist finances and supply lines to assassinations of terrorist leaders. Their formation and activities were inspired by relentless attacks on a constitutional republic, attacks on the West, and fecklessness government leaders.

…As the spread of the Muslim religion accelerates toward dominance, the war between Sunnis and Shi’as is subjugated to the common desire to destroy Israel and America.

It should be remembered that Saleem has stated that Obama is a secret Muslim who performs an Islamic prayer when he pretends to pledge allegiance to the flag, while Boykin famously warned that Obama is preparing a “private Brownshirt army” to enforce Marxism acorss the USA. Boykin has also called for mosques to be banned in the USA (although he introduced a bit of vagueness to what he meant following controversy).

The book was published last month, and the authors recently discussed it on radio with the American Family Association’s Sandy Rios. Boykin and Saleem have been appearing together in the media and at various events for some time, and they are both closely associated with the neo-Pentecostal evangelist Rick Joyner. Boykin’s endorsement of Saleem has also been used to bat away the overwhelming evidence that Saleem has lied extravagantly about his past in order to present himself as an expert on Islam and terrorism.

However, although Boykin and Saleem tend to focus on the Christian Right speaker circuit, The Coalition appears to be a secular affair: the book is published by Post Hill Press, an independent publisher that produces a strange mix of novels, political memoirs and conservative polemics (it also has the current rights to Oliver North’s 1991 Under Fire). Unexpectedly, the imprint is owned by Permuted Press, which publishes apocalyptic horror stories (particularly involving zombies), and this genre appears to be the specialism of the editors who are thanked in The Coalition‘s acknowledgements. Also involved with Post Hill Press is Anthony Ziccardi, who heads Newsmax Media’s Humanix Books.

By contrast, Boykin’s previous creative endeavours  – Danger Close and Kiloton Threat – were co-authored with a professional Christian adventure author (Tom Morrisey) and published through religious imprints. However, The Coalition seems to be part of the same series: in all three books, the main character is named Blake Kershaw, and there are appearances by an elderly General Sam Wilson (there may be other connections between the books). It’s clear that “General Sam” is the real-life Samuel V. Wilson, the former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency: in Danger Close “Sam Wilson” is a retired General with “an office” at Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia, just as the real-life Wilson was the college’s president; in Kiloton Threat he’s given the “V.” middle initial; and in the acknowledgements for The Coalition Boykin says that the real “General Sam” is “a ninety-one-year old in and mentor”, fitting with Wilson’s birth in 1923. Wilson appears to have approved of how he was portrayed in the earlier books, for which he provided endorsements.

This time, perhaps the prospect of the good guys running “supply lines to assassinations of terrorist leaders” was seen as bit too red-bloodied for a Christian imprint; here’s a passage in which General Sam gives advice to Kershaw about an invitation to join the counterjihad group:

“I’m as ready to strap it on as I’ve ever been, but I’m also really unsettled with the concept of doing it outside the government… The idea for the Sodality has been floating around me since just after World War Two. I was four square against it until the major moves were made to dismantle our Constitution, and in particular the separation of powers, at the time we were also seeing the greatest threat from without since Pearl Habor. Left to the status quo, America might have already been pulled down to third world chaos. If you take their offer, you will find out what they’ve done in just a few years to buttress the wall around America…”

Coincidentally, one of the leaders of the Sodality is “Lt Gen Bill Garrison”, which just happens to be the same real-life ranking of Lt Gen William G. Boykin, and it’s made clear he’s running a group “with no restrictions on proselyizing”.

The book’s Amazon page includes an endorsement from Oliver North:

To know where our fight against radical Islam is heading, you must read The Coalition by my warrior friend Jerry Boykin and Kamal Saleem. They say it’s fiction. But it’s truth with a warning label: ‘Your Thinking Is About To Be Challenged.

Anti-Gay “Sinister Monk” Arrested in Cambridge

From the Pink News:

Monk arrested for distributing homophobic leaflets is head of Catholic charity

A monk who was earlier this week arrested for distributing leaflets across Cambridge claiming that gay people are “corrupting young children”, is the director of a Catholic charity which spends tens of thousands of pounds each year.

…PinkNews has discovered that [Damon Jonah] Kelly, who is actually a monk, is the director of the Scotland based charity the Black Hermits.

The Pink News notes that the organisation exists to “promote Roman Catholic religion” and aims “to establish a Roman Catholic monastic centre on the Island of Mull.”

Details about Kelly follow earlier reports of a “sinister monk” distributing leaflets in Cambridge in April, and in Brighton, Market Harborough and Lincoln over the summer. As the Leicester Mercury reported in August:

One resident, who asked not to be named, said: “I saw the monk in Bath Street, followed by two angry people.”

There was also a rumour of an assistant:

A police spokeswoman said… one person who called in to complain said the monk appeared to be with another man, in normal clothing.

She said. “One was in his in late 30s. The other was dressed in a black monk’s outfit.

“Officers attended the area but could not find anyone…”

One recipient posted an image of one leaflet, entitled Homosexualism: A Few Points, to Twitter. This week’s arrest, however, appears to relate to a second publication, called The Works of DarknessThere’s also a third leaflet, a seasonable item titled Christmas, Christ and Anti-Christ. No publisher’s details are apparent, and all three have headings printed in a medievalizing font.

“The Black Hermits” are obscure – there are no details on-line other than official filings on charity and company websites, which show that the name was registered as a company in 2005. However, it should be noted that Kelly is just one of several directors, alongside a nun, a priest, and – rather unexpectedly – a local Mull grandee who was the sister of the late Pamela Harriman. It’s not clear why the Pink News describes him as the “head” of the charity, and there’s no reason to infer that his behaviour (which he’s admitted to) has anything to do with the organisation.

Emails Reveal Link Between World Congress of Families’ Russian Representative and Russian Nationalists

From J. Lester Feder and Susie Armitage at Buzzfeed:

Russian nationalists and social conservatives appear to be working together to use links with “pro-family” organizations in the U.S. and around the world to promote Russia’s geopolitical agenda, according to emails sent between right-wing activists.

…The emails include frequent correspondence between senior Russian figures, such as [Alexander] Dugin, the financier Konstantin Malofeev — who has close ties to Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine and is a patron of causes dear to the Orthodox Church — and Alexey Komov, an official with the Orthodox patriarchy and the “Russian representative” of the World Congress of Families, a social conservative network based in Rockford, Illinois.

The emails were apparently leaked by Shaltay-Boltay (“Humpty Dumpty”) from the account of a certain Georgy Gavrish, “a former official with the Russian Embassy to Greece” who is part of Dugin’s Eurasianist movement (more on Dugin here). Gavrish is described by Buzzfeed as a “gatekeeper” for Malofeev’s European contacts, and the article says that there are hints that he “is involved in handling Dugin’s relationships with separatists in Ukraine and building links with far-right politicians throughout Europe.”

Komov also sent Gavrish a spreadsheet of foreign participants who were “confirmed” as planning to attend September’s  “Large Families: The Future of Humanity” conference in Moscow – members of the World Congress of Families participated, but Russia’s recent actions in Ukraine meant that the WCF decided it would be prudent for the event not to be an official WCF activity. Komov (who also runs a Russian franchise of Ted Baehr‘s Movieguide) told Gavrish he was sending the names “just in case”.

Details of the conference participants were not a secret, although it’s interesting to have a full list, along with their topics, who recommended them, and details of who apparently paid for their travel (although Komov cautioned Buzzfeed that the spreadsheet may not be completely accurate). From the UK, Benjamin Harris-Quinney  of the Bow Group was described as being “keen to speak on the UK Same Sex Marriage Bill and the LGBT lobby”, while the theme of Thomas Ward of the National Association of Catholic Families and the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children was “family protection”. Both are listed as having received travel expenses from Vladimir Yakunin’s Foundation of St Andrew the First-Born; Yakunin, a key member of Putin’s inner circle, is currently under sanctions.

And from the USA: Theodore Baehr* and his daughter Evelyn* (Movieguide); Brian Brown (National Organization for Marriage); Josh Craddock (Personhood USA); John DeFrain* (Professor of Family and Community Development); Michael P. Donnelly (Home School Legal Defense Association); Alejandra Fabris (Citizen Go); Donald Feder (WCF – more on him here); Miriam Grossman* (author of Unprotected and You’re Teaching My Child What?); Father Marcel Guarnizo* (Educational Initiative for Central and Eastern Europe); Lawrence D. Jacobs* (WCF); Keith Mason (Personhood USA), Shelly Locke (Power of Mothers); Terrence McKeegan (Holy See Mission to the UN), Miguel Moreno (Leadership Institute); William J. Murray (Religious Freedom Coalition – more on him here); Austin Ruse (Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute – Ruse made links with Malofeev in 2013, as I noted here); Daniel P. Schmidt (Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation); Sharon Slater (Family Watch International); and Steven Weber (Christian Broadcasting Network).

Names marked with an asterisk denote those also listed as having received expenses from the Foundation of St Andrew the First-Born; the others paid their own way.

Meanwhile, an earlier article from Softpedia notes how the emails reveal a wider strategy of promoting Russia in Europe:

The endeavor to attract pro-Russian individuals in Europe is financed by Konstantin Malofeev, according to Shaltay Boltay (Google Translate)…

The individuals are occupying important positions in their countries, which allows them certain degree of influence, and have either met Dugin himself or his representatives…

Among the names listed there are Ion Iliescu (former president of Romania), Suleyman Demirel (former president of Turkey), Roman Giertych (former minister of education in Poland [blogged here – RB]), Viktor Orbán (prime minister of Hungary), Robert Fico (prime minister of Slovakia), Vojislav Kostunica (former president of Serbia), Massimo Fini (Italian journalist), Tiberio Gratsiani (president of the Institute of Geopolitics and Applied Sciences in Italy), Jurgen Elsasser (German journalist and political activist), and Felix Allemand (German anti-globalization blogger).

In June, Swiss media broke the story of a secret meeting between Malofeev, Dugin, and some right-wing political figures in Vienna; and just recently, it was reported that France’s Front National had borrowed a large sum from a Cyprus-based company called Veronisa Holdings, which happens to be owned by a KGB agent turned-banker named Yuri Kudimov.

Exaro News Makes Troubling New Accusations on Twitter

Disturbing Tweets from investigative website Exaro News. First, from 30 November:

Do not fall for smears against Exaro re CSA [child sexual abuse] survivors. We cannot discuss the arrangements that we make to ensure their safety and security. [LINK]

BTW the smears are coming from paedophiles as well as spooks. But some are one and the same. But they all know that the tide has turned.  [LINK]

And then today:

For the first time we are blocking some paedophiles and paedo-apologists who have engaged in extreme trolling to upset abuse survivors. [LINK]

… Not worth naming them. We do not want to give them publicity. [LINK]

Over the past few months, Exaro News has made a name for itself with a series of inter-related stories about an alleged paedophile ring involving senior politicians that supposedly operated with the collusion of the security services in the 1970s and 1980s. But in the above, the website has shifted – in an extraordinary casual and off-hand way – from investigating historic claims to making inflammatory accusations about people operating on Twitter today.

Exaro‘s most sensational claim appeared last month: that a survivor, named as “Nick”, had witnessed a then-serving Conservative Party MP “strangle a boy to death during a sexual assault” at an “abuse party”. Nick also claims  that a second boy was murdered by two unknown men in front of “a former Conservative cabinet minister” at a different event, and that a third boy had been “deliberately [run] over and killed” by a member of the gang. The timeline, for some reason, is slightly confused: the first murder took place “around 1980″, and the second one “between a year and 18 months” later; but the third – which Nick “took to be a warning” – is curiously dated to “the summer of 1979″.

Since November’s publication, I’ve seen several people on Twitter express scepticism about the story or raise misgivings about how Exaro and Nick are interacting with the police. I also note that one critic (involved with the contrarian “Spiked” group) is on record as having described Stuart Hall’s crimes as being “low-level”, and I can see how this might provoke a hostile “paedo-apologist” accusation. Further, there is one (anonymous) Twitter user who is approaching the issue in a way that is unpleasant and goading. But where’s the evidence of paedophiles “smearing” Exaro News on Twitter (or elsewhere)? And where’s the evidence of the remarkable claim that they are also “spooks”?

The published allegations about a “Conservative cabinet minister” are vague, but specific enough to allow anyone so inclined to make a short list of suspects. Similarly, these Tweets are vague enough to avoid proper scrutiny, but just specific enough to cast a shadow over anyone with reasonable and good-faith reservations about aspects of Exaro‘s approach.

That’s the effect. But as someone who supports “new media” and “citizen journalist” investigations into matters of public interest, I really hope it wasn’t the intention.

(Amended)

UPDATE: By way of a footnote, I would also like to note a couple of other recent Exaro Tweets that have caught my eye and set off alarm-bells: (1) an RT of a Tweet by another person responding to news that the site has been short-listed for a journalism award:

I should think the only people that won’t vote for you are paedophiles & the ‘cover uppers’!

Perhaps this was meant as a joke rather than as a serious proposition, but even if so it remains very ill-advised for Exaro to appear to endorse the sentiment.

And (2), an attack on Chris French for writing in the Guardian about false claims of Satanic Ritual Abuse (a subject I’ve discussed previously):

…He is, in total ignorance, casting doubt on Nick-type victims. SRA is a red herring icw Midland

The Guardian itself came under fire for publishing the piece after asking to speak to “Nick”.

I should perhaps make clear that this doesn’t mean that I think Exaro News should be dismissed out of hand – the case of Cyril Smith shows that a politician was able to get away with paedophilic abuse (although not, so far as we know, murder) in plain sight, and that the security services may have protected him (as others have suggested, perhaps in order to blackmail him).

Exaro also has testimony from ex-law enforcement officers that they were aware of “a significant paedophile group in Parliament” who were allegedly “untouchable”; these two (unnamed) officers apparently also claim to have been “aware that boys were being killed”, although no details are given as to what is meant by “aware” (saw bodies? heard rumours?). Obviously, that needs looking into.

One thing we’ve learnt over the past 12 years, following the first media revelations about historic sex abuse within the Roman Catholic Church in 2002, is that institutions have again and again facilitated the abuse of children, in some cases because of child protection failures and in others due to collusion. There is naturally widespread goodwill towards those who are investigating the issue, and anger against the thought of all those who escaped justice because they enjoyed positions of authority and trust.

But the spectre of Joseph McCarthy should remind us that it not good for any campaigning group or individual to be above criticism.

Berean Call Clashes with WND On End-Times Theories

T.A. McMahon of The Berean Call warns against “fearmongering false prophets”:

The latest to conjure up forthcoming dark clouds on the horizon are those who promote the teaching that there may well be a combination of two prophetic events taking place in the year 2015 that could result in unprecedented physical cataclysms and financial crashes. The use of italics for “may well be” and “could” is given to note that those purveyors of disasters have used such language in order to cover themselves from being accused of false prophecy. 

…The two leaders in this alleged confluence of biblical tribulations are Jonathan Cahn ( The Mystery of Shemitah ) and Mark Biltz ( The Blood Moons ) [here]. They are supported by a cast of false teachers and sensationalists and their associated organizations that include Jim Bakker, Sid Roth, John Hagee, Pat Robertson of the 700 Club , and Joseph Farah of WorldNetDaily, to name but a few.

…Cahn is heavily promoted by WorldNetDaily, which heralds him as a modern-day prophet and revealer of “The Ancient Mystery That Holds the Secret of America’s Future .” Joseph Farah, WorldNetDaily’s chief, is the producer of Cahn’s documentary Isaiah:9:10 Judgment [here], and the website is a chief supporter of Cahn’s books.

…Joining the false signs-and-wonders teacher Rodney Howard-Browne for his Celebrate America Conference, Jonathan Cahn told the audience, “The financial collapse of the US dollar may happen on Sunday the 13th of September 2015 corresponding to the 29 of Elul 5775 on the Hebrew calendar, the next shemitah of the 7 year cycle.”

That’s from Google cache; the original page has been scrubbed, apparently following a complaint from Farah.

Cahn is a Messianic Jew, and he claims to have special insight into “Hebrew Mysteries” in the Bible. In particular, God’s dealings with ancient Israel are supposedly spiritual laws that can also be used to explain historical events in the USA, and to predict what lies ahead. His book The Harbinger has been a national bestseller, and he’s now followed up with The Mystery of the Shemitah (tagline: “The 3, 000-Year-Old Mystery That Holds the Secret of America’s Future, the World’s Future, and Your Future!”)

The Berean Call, by contrast, represents a more austere form of Christian fundamentalism that is sceptical of trendy “end-times experts” and their various theories:

Jonathan Cahn further compounds the central error that he taught in his book The Harbinger by applying a law of God to America—a law that applies only to God’s exclusive covenant people: the Jews. This is false prophecy in the sense that it seriously misrepresents the Scriptures.

The article has prompted a bitter and aggrieved response from WND‘s Joseph Farah, in a piece written by one of his authors, Leo Hohmann:

A video-recording of Cahn’s speech that day in D.C. revealed no mention of the dollar’s impending collapse on Sept. 13 of next year.

…Farah, founder of WND.com, WND Books and WND Films, said he was disappointed in McMahon’s blanket criticisms and especially his distortion of the facts.

“When you accuse someone of saying something they didn’t say it’s called ‘bearing false witness.’ It’s a sin. It’s a breach of one of the Ten Commandments,” Farah said.

The criticisms also appear to be a breach of the biblical admonishment in Matthew 18:15-20, Farah said. That scripture says “if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone.” In other words, tell him in private, not in front of the whole congregation or, in this case, in front of the world on the Internet.

…Why he would have fabricated a quote remains unclear. WND left a voicemail message Monday and sent an email seeking a response from the Berean Call but as of this posting has not heard from McMahon.

This is difficult to take: Farah is a notorious and florid liar when it comes to all kinds of subjects, while his sudden conversion to discreet and constructive criticism as opposed to shrill denunciations is laughable.

The accusation that McMahon “fabricated a quote” rather than simply made a mistake is also made in bad faith. A few moments Googling brings up a video of Cahn in conversation with Sid Roth, in which Cahn makes it very clear that he expects disaster in 2015 as part of a seven-year spiritual cycle:

The first shaking is 9/11. Second shaking is the economic collapse. When does it happen? It happens in 2008… The greatest day happened at the end of September 2008. It was the greatest stock market crash in the history of America.

It’s pretty clear that this infers something similar for September 2015. Part of the interview was uploaded to YouTube by someone called packrat23456 in March 2013; the uploader chose to substitute some of the visuals with written comments of his own, and at 3.58 he added:

The financial collapse of the US dollar, may happen on Sunday, the 13th of September 2015.

This may not be Cahn’s exact words, but it’s the plain meaning of what he’s saying. The YouTube video was subsequently embedded on a site called Prophecies of the End Times (tagline: “The Wrath of God is Comming”), in a piece by a certain PT Caldwell entitled “The Financial Collapse of America..9/13/2015“.

The bad blood between McMahon and Farah goes back a while, despite former friendship. In March 2013, Farah recalled that McMahon had once helped him find a painkiller vending-machine during an attack of kidney stones, but, alas:

Nearly every issue of The Berean Call includes a new attack on “The Harbinger” and “The Isaiah 9:10 Judgment” – each one more preposterous and slanderous than the next.

…McMahon has a legacy to live up to – the big legacy of Dave Hunt. He is attempting to do that with a “holier than thou” attitude toward the superstar of American evangelicalism today, Jonathan Cahn (and occasionally myself because of my close association with him).

It’s pure jealousy, in my opinion. It’s envy. It’s the temptation to pick on someone with a big following to attract attention from a much more limited following.

UK Conspiracy Theorist Backed By WND Found Guilty of Making Hoax Bomb Claims

Jerome Corsi, writing for WND in April:

British barrister and intelligence consultant Michael Shrimpton plans to launch a vigorous defense on charges of making false claims to British government officials that a terrorist nuclear attack was under way during the 2012 Olympics in London, raising the possibility documents and testimony he plans to subpoena will embarrass the U.K., German and U.S. governments.

As WND reported, Shrimpton, who faces a Nov. 10 trial, also appears in a 2008 video that began re-circulating earlier this year on the Internet in which he claims to have been privy to shocking intelligence information on Obama’s origins….

WND also reported several British military intelligence sources with a long track record say they are prepared to testify in Shrimpton’s trial.

As I noted at the time, Corsi’s piece was the third of a trilogy of articles for WND about Shrimpton’s predicament; there was also a WND column by Christopher Monckton, which began with a warning to David Cameron to “Leave Michael Shrimpton Alone”:

If Mr. Shrimpton is sane, then HMG will find it has has bitten off more than it can chew. For Shrimpton will exercise every right of the defense to call secret intelligence evidence, such as reports from the network of nuclear-monitoring military satellites, and even a report of a supposed DNA test establishing that Mr. Obama was born in Kenya. 

However, even Monckton – and that’s a very big “even”, given Monckton’s own eccentricities – felt the need for a bit of hedging, adding:

Don’t ask me what that has to do with a plot to blow up the London Olympics. Mr. Shrimpton may or may not have all his marbles in the right place, but the prosecution is plainly out to lunch.

So, seven month later, how did things work out? From the UK Mirror:

…A jury of nine men and three women found Shrimpton guilty of two counts of communicating false information after more than six hours of deliberation, with majority 11-1 verdicts.

Ordering psychiatric reports, Judge Alistair McCreath QC said: “The sentence that I pass upon you will have to reflect that gravity of the conduct of which you have been convicted.

“But if, as may be the case, there is some underlying reason for it, then it seems to me important that I be informed of that underlying reason and I am therefore minded to order that you undergo psychiatric examination.”

No “secret intelligence evidence” appears to have been presented, although Shrimpton did mention “someone in Munich” with links to Russian intelligence “who occasionally has lunch with Pope”.

The Mirror also adds:

Shrimpton holds one previous conviction for possession of indecent images of children. A memory stick was found in his house search containing the vile pictures and has been the subject of separate proceedings at magistrates’ court.

Handed a three-year community order for the crime, he appealed the conviction but it was upheld.

According to an October article in the Bucks Herald, the images “were found by police specialists to be indecent images of young boys”. However:

Speaking to the Bucks Herald outside court Mr Shrimpton said that he was ‘not worried’ about the case, and dismissed it as an effort to discredit him for being outspoken about key political issues as an intelligence specialist.

He said: “With every respect to the CPS and TVP this prosecution, based on an allegation of possession of a memory stick which has neither my fingerprints nor DNA on it, is a farce…”

We await Corsi’s take on these developments with interest.

Meanwhile, Shrimpton and Monckton appeared together in September, discussing “rise of violent Islamic jihadism, the missing Malaysian jetliner, and the threat to Western civilization” on TruNews with End-Times radio conspiracy-monger Rick Wiles.

Vladimir Yakunin at “Peace With Russia” Conference in Berlin

German media has some interesting coverage of a recent conference in Berlin that was attended by Vladimir Yakunin (or “Wladimir Jakunin” in German transliteration), a close confidant of Vladimir Putin who has featured a number of times on this blog due to his involvement in soft power initiatives using culture and religion.

The conference – titled Frieden mit Russland! - was organised by Compact magazine, and featured political figures such as the Vice President of the AfD, Alexander Gauland, and Egon Bahr, the architect of Ostpolitik under Willy Brandt. According to the blurb (tidied up from Google translate):

The policy of the USA, NATO and the EU has maybe put us in the most dangerous situation since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 after the end of the Second World War in 1945. Every decent German and any decent Europeans has the duty to resist in this warmongering against Russia. The encirclement of our neighbor to the east is not in the European interest, but only serves Anglo-American power. That they cover up the goals of their endeavor as the defense of international law is a transparent ploy. If Washington and London speak of human rights, it’s really about mineral rights.

All surveys show that the people do not want a new war against Russia, not even a cold one! The rational forces must now come together and give ear: “Peace with Russia. For a sovereign Europe “- See you on November 22 in Berlin!

A report for Bild by Peter Tiede describes the conference as a “a summit of German friends Putin, right-wing populists and conspiracy theorists in Berlin”, while Sidney Gennies for Der Tagesspiegel appears to have spent time with an attendee (not apparently a speaker) who explained how Coca Cola was invented to destroy the body’s immune system and how vaccines are a plot to decimate Africa (a conspiracy theory I looked at just recently, after Kenyan Bishops spoke on the issue).

Bild also draws attention to document produced by a Russian think-tank called “The Centre for Strategic  Communications”, called Putin: The New Leader of International Conservatism. This is somewhat old news – the report, by Dmitry Abzalov, was launched at a press conference in December last year, and featured in an article by Brian Whitmore for Radio Free Europe. According to Whitmore:

According to excerpts from the report cited in the media, most people yearn for stability and security, favor traditional family values over feminism and gay rights, and prefer nation-based states rather than multicultural melting pots. Putin, the report says, stands for these values while “ideological populism of the left” in the West “is dividing society.” 

Bild now adds that the report has a specific strategy for Germany; according to a derivative detail from Bild in English in The Local:

The paper’s authors highlight one of the AfD’s financing methods – trading gold – as a way for the Kremlin to buy influence into the party. The advisors suggested the Russian government could sell gold to the party at a loss or use the Germans as a middleman for gold trading at commission as a way of filling the party’s coffers.

The Berlin conference appears to be a regular yearly event, although interest has been heightened following news of a “secret meeting” between Russian oligarch Konstantin Malofeev and right-wing figures in Vienna during the summer.

Religious Relics Transferred From Moscow to East Ukraine

Russian news-source RIA Novosti reports that relics of St George and a fragment of the Holy Cross have been transferred from Moscow to a cathedral in Donetsk (trans. via Google, tidied up a bit):

“We took them to the holy land, holy relics will remain here forever. We want bloodshed in Donbas to cease, and to be at peace “, Natalia Mezentceva, the vice-president of the Foundation of Saint Boniface (Moscow), which organized the event, told reporters.

Beforehand, the relics were brought to the location of troops belonging to the breakaway Donetsk People’s Republic, where they were venerated by the fighters.

Back in June, the same Foundation arranged for relics to be brought to the Black Sea Fleet, in a ceremony that also involved “Regional Development Minister Igor Slyunyaev, and employees of the Ministry of Regional Development of Russia”.

The Foundation has a website here; it appears to be a charity focusing on drug and alcohol addiction.

The Foundation plans to bring other religious items to Donbas: these include relics of Ilya Muromets, and the Holy Fire from Jerusalem next Easter.

Anti-Vax HCG-Tetanus Conspiracy Theory Backed By Catholic Groups In Kenya

From LifeSiteNews:

…According to a statement released Tuesday by the Kenya Catholic Doctors Association, the organization has found an antigen that causes miscarriages in a vaccine being administered to 2.3 million girls and women by the World Health Organization and UNICEF. Priests throughout Kenya reportedly are advising their congregations to refuse the vaccine.

“We sent six samples from around Kenya to laboratories in South Africa. They tested positive for the HCG antigen,” Dr. Muhame Ngare of the Mercy Medical Centre in Nairobi told LifeSiteNews. “They were all laced with HCG.”

Dr. Ngare, spokesman for the Kenya Catholic Doctors Association, stated in a bulletin released November 4, “This proved right our worst fears; that this WHO campaign is not about eradicating neonatal tetanus but a well-coordinated forceful population control mass sterilization exercise using a proven fertility regulating vaccine. This evidence was presented to the Ministry of Health before the third round of immunization but was ignored.”

It was reported last month that Catholic Bishops in Kenya were warning against the vaccine.

LifeSiteNews also carries a choice quote from Brain Clowes, of Human Life International in Virginia, who explains the nefarious motivation behind it all:

“Racism,” is Brian Clowes’ first explanation.  “Also, the developed countries want to get hold of their natural resources. And lately, there is the whole bogus global warming thing.”

There are several articles about Human Life International on Right Wing Watch. It’s not clear to what extent the organization is behind the current scare in Kenya, but it has been promoting the claim that the jab is a secret sterilization plot for many years.

In 1995, the organization’s campaigning featured in an academic paper entitled “Damage to Immunisation Programmes from Misinformation on Contrceptive Vaccines“, by Julie Milstien, P. David Griffin and J.W. Lee and available here. The authors wrote:

This publicity campaign apparently stemmed from reports in the scientific literature of a clinical trial carried out to assess the effectiveness of a prototype antifertility vaccine designed to provide protection against unplanned pregnancies for a period of one to two years, carried out by a group in India led by [Professor G. P.] Talwar. The active ingredient in this vaccine is a subunit of human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG), a hormone necessary for the initiation of pregnancy and produced in large amounts throughout pregnancy. It is hCG which is detected by pregnancy tests. The hCG used in the clinical trial was coupled with a protein ‘carrier’ so that it would stimulate the production of antibodies against hCG and thus prevent pregnancy. In the case of the study in question, the protein carriers used were diphtheria and tetanus toxoids, which are available relatively cheaply and produced under conditions which make them acceptable for human use.

There is no connection between tetanus immunisation programmes and this small clinical trial, carried out in India in 1994, and not sponsored, supported, nor executed by WHO. However, in order to discredit the development of anti-hCG vaccines, the information concerning these two separate activities has been erroneously linked and distorted to confuse people. Unfortunately this confusion can result in endangering the lives of infants and of their mothers by interfering with their access to immunisations.

After these rumours were spread, attempts were made to analyse TI vaccines for the presence of hCG. The vaccines were sent to hospital laboratories and tested using pregnancy test kits which are developed for use on serum and urine specimens, and are not appropriate for a vaccine such as ‘IT, which contains a special preservative (merthiolate) and an adjuvant (aluminum salt). As a consequence of using these inappropriate tests, low levels of hCG-like activity were found in some samples of TT vaccine. The laboratories themselves recognised the insignificance of the results, which were below the reliable detection capability of the kits and were due to a nonspecific interaction between the adjuvant or other substances in the vaccine and the test kit. However, these results were misrepresented by the ‘pro-life’ groups with the resulting disruption of immunisation programmes.

That was almost 20 years ago. In 2006, a British journalist – Tom Whipple, now with the London Times  – covered the same issue for the Sri Lanka Daily Mirror:

It was at a pro-life conference in Colombo that I first heard about the United Nations’ plans to sterilise the female population of the developing world. The press release for the “Asia under siege” anti-abortion roadshow introduced the case: “The so far unsuspecting and vulnerable Sri Lankan people will learn about the harm that women are exposed to through birth control potions. They will be told how government departments are pressurised into implementing racist and ideological policies enforced from abroad.”

Whipple cited studies which again show the accusation to be false – and on Twitter he has now said that he left the Catholic Church over to the issue.

It’s true that the WHO has been developing a hCG anti-fertility vaccine, but with rather less ambitious aims than the Kenyan Bishops fear; in 2004, the body explained that:

A number of agencies have been trying for some years to develop a totally new method of contraception—immunocontraception—based on the production of an immune response to specific molecules. The Programme’s work in this area has focused on the development of an immunocontraceptive based on, and directed against, human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG), a protein produced by the early embryo to allow successful implantation in the endometrium. A successful anti-hCG vaccine could theoretically provide long-lasting protection against pregnancy (approximately 6 months), without producing the endocrine and other metabolic disturbances often associated with long-acting hormonal preparations.

Granted, this was more than ten years ago; but a browse of the American Journal of Reproductive Immunology‘s special issue for July 2011, on Contraceptive Vaccines, shows that such an hCG vaccine is still in the process of development. The editorial (which is free to view), by Rajesh K. Naz of West Virginia University, includes the following:

The hCG vaccine is the first vaccine to under Phase I and II clinical trials in humans. Both efficacy and lack of immunopathology have been well demonstrated for this vaccine. At the present time, studies are focused on increasing the immunogenicity and efficacy of the birth control vaccine and examining its clinical applications in various hCG-producing cancers.

Here’s what Clowes wants us to believe: that the originators of the vaccine published their findings in 1994, despite the need for secrecy; that large numbers of twenty-first century health professionals have been co-ordinating on a covert and highly unethical (indeed, illegal) project that risks destroying the credibility of all international health interventions, motivated by greed and racism; that the programme has managed to continue despite exposure by groups like IHL; that vast numbers of women have been sterilized already without anyone noticing any impact on demography; and that professional scientists working on the subject are under the false impression that the vaccine is still at trial stage.

Claims that vaccinations are a secret sterilization plot have also adversely affected anti-polio vaccination programmes – most famously in Nigeria, where local Islamists promoted a parallel conspiracy theory about oestrogen.

Footnote

The LifeSiteNews article also includes the following quote about the Kenyan anti-vaxxers:

Why, they ask does it involve an unprecedented five shots (or”jabs” as they are known, in Kenya) over more than two years and why is it applied only to women of child-bearing years, and why is it not being conducted without the usual fanfare of government publicity?

“Usually we give a series three shots over two to three years, we give it anyone who comes into the clinic with an open wound, men, women or children.” said Dr. Ngare. “If this is intended to inoculate children in the womb, why give it to girls starting at 15 years? You cannot get married till you are 18. The usual way to vaccinate children is to wait till they are six weeks old.”

I don’t think most people would struggle to grasp why a campaign against neo-natal tetanus would focus on “women of child-bearing years”, and a bit of googling shows that a course of five shots is actually normal. As to why girls aged between 15 and 17 are included, despite not being able to get married until they are 18 – perhaps someone ought to explain the way of the world to Dr Ngare.