Peter Jukes Describes His Experiences with TabloidTroll

“So I’m now going to blog about @peterjukes & his family,” wrote Dennis Rice…

TabloidTroll wrote: “If @PeterJukes writes any shit on me in his book the gloves will really come off. Newsnight ex wife, business failures.” The fact the mother of my two children had been made a target was pretty disturbing.

Jukes Beyond Contempt

Note (22 September): Peter Jukes’ book was originally published as a PDF in August; it was subsequently revised and expanded for the print edition, which appeared last week. This blog entry has been updated to reflect the extra material contained in the revised version.

***

Introduction: why this matters to me

Peter Jukes’ book Beyond Contempt: The Inside Story of the Phone Hacking Trial is a volume of some special interest to me, due to several passages dealing with a minor side issue: Peter’s experiences with Dennis Rice, aka TabloidTroll, who attempted to intimidate him from writing freely by threatening to intrude on his personal family and financial circumstances.

I wrote about my own experiences with Rice three weeks ago; it’s perhaps a strange subject to find on a blog about religion, but I came under Rice’s scrutiny after I wrote a corrective to distorted Tweets he had posted about the “Terror Target Sugar” media fiasco (my post was kindly mirrored at Sunny Hundal’s Liberal Conspiracy website). I also agreed with evidence uncovered and assembled by Tim Ireland that Rice was sockpuppeting as TabloidTroll (it wasn’t just a pseudonym – TabloidTroll would commend Rice in third person, and such).

Rice took revenge as TabloidTroll by making nasty and creepy references to my mother and partner, making it very clear that he knows where my mother lives, and he eventually expanded on his theme in a grotesquely intrusive, nasty, and inaccurate blog post. Tim received similar treatment However, as Rice came to realise that I had not been intimidated, he then started phoning up my mother and threatening to come to her address. That is what finally persuaded me to return to the subject on this blog last month.

Dennis Rice as hacking victim

Rice is in an unusual position: he was formerly investigations editor of the Mail on Sunday, but he was also himself a victim of phone-hacking by rivals at the News of the World who were looking to steal a scoop about the then-Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott. Details appeared in a recent article by Roy Greenslade:

The [Mail on Sunday’s] managing editor, John Wellington, spoke to Rice and [Laura] Collins in October 2006 – two months after [Clive] Goodman and [Glenn] Mulcaire were arrested – about the police having informed him that their mobile phones had been hacked between April and July 2006.

…Rice recalls that he was first called by the police, who told him he had been hacked 80 times, before he discussed it with Wellington. He later discovered that his office computer had also been hacked…

But the four were not required to be prosecution witnesses against Mulcaire. Wellington, who remained unaware of the computer hacking, said the police approached the paper so that its staff could change their mobile pin numbers.

For some reason, Greenslade doesn’t delve into why Wellington “remained unaware of the computer hacking”. Also, and strangely, Rice wrote a Storify piece that heavily implied that the contact with police came in 2012:

Two months earlier [April 2012] I had been called into New Scotland Yard and played a series of recordings which had been seized from the home of Glen Mulcaire.

They were messages left on my phone from friends, family, and work colleagues. In prosecution terms they were dynamite – pure indisputable proof of phone hacking.

Perhaps this means that although Rice was told about the hacking in 2006, the recordings did not come to light until 6 years later.

Following the 2012 meeting with police, Rice retained the services of the lawyer Mark Lewis, and he and his family members received confidential civil settlements. Lewis is well-known as the lawyer for the Dowler family, and he has achieved a high profile as a campaigning activist on the subject of phone-hacking by journalists. He has advised Hacked Off, which lobbies for press regulation, and he was himself the target of an attempted smear by the News of the World. Lewis has described Rice as “a really great bloke. Old fashioned journalist. I know him well”, and, frustratingly, he appears to have accepted uncritically Rice’s counter-narrative that Tim was harassing him, rather than the other way around.

However, Rice is bitterly opposed to Hacked Off, and he has referred to his own status as a hacking victim as evidence that some hacking victims do not want to see the scandal lead to press regulation.

Dennis Rice turns on Peter Jukes

Rice, it should be remembered, maintains that he is not TabloidTroll – he has even written to Google, declaring “under penalty of perjury” that ” I am not responsible for this anonymous account (tabloidtroll)”. Peter’s book does not make any statement that contradicts this, although his narrative leaves us to draw our own conclusions.

For a long time, Rice as TabloidTroll enjoyed bantering with Peter, but things turned nasty after Peter drew a distinction between being hacked and finding your private life in a newspaper, and being hacked for purposes of industrial espionage. Of course it’s a horrible violation to be phone-hacked, even if private messages do not find their way into the public domain, but Rice’s reaction verged on hysteria. Peter writes:

Rice took exception to this and told me that his family had been targeted. I replied I was very sorry to hear that and updated my blog. This failed to placate Rice, who accused me of “stalking” him on Linked In (he’d come up in a search I’d done when writing up his timeline from the trial). He added that he was a potential witness, and I was “harassing” him so he was thinking of reporting me to the Attorney General…

Rice… somehow read my blog as demeaning journalists as second-class citizens. “It’s now 24 hrs since I showed @peterjukes that his smear blog about my family was factually incorrect,” he tweeted, “yet he still refuses to alter it. So I’m now going to blog about @peterjukes & his family.” There were some mutterings about me being too afraid to meet him face to face.

I was more concerned about.the tone of his subsequent comments. “His blatant refusal to remove these falsehoods invites me to look as an investigative journalist what else is going on here,” Rice tweeted about my “malicious” “smear blog,” saying I was “wetting your pants when a real journalist turns his gaze on you. I’m coming.” I was not sure what Rice meant when he said he was “coming,” though I knew he had taunted someone else on Twitter after doing financial checks at Companies House. Through the months ahead I anxiously anticipated some kind of blog about my financial background or my family. Rice locked down his feed again.

Another account, TabloidTroll (which Rice vigorously insists he has nothing to do with) mentioned me regularly, my crowd-funding, and even suggested I should give some of the proceeds to my ex-wife.

This is a pattern with Rice; creepy messages of a goading and self-evidently harassing nature, which attempt to justify personal intrusion by projecting his own malice onto his target. Peter hadn’t written anything about Rice’s family other than to acknowledge they’d been hacked; there was absolutely nothing that could reasonably provoke “a taste of his own medicine” threat. Rice’s outrage was either hysterical or affected.

Peter Jukes “investigated”

Later in the book, Peter explains what happened as publication approached:

Now there was no danger of contempt, I tweeted out that this book would contain some of the background stories about pressure during the trial.

Soon, TabloidTroll was back on Twitter, writing: “If @PeterJukes writes any shit on me in his book the gloves will really come off. Newsnight ex wife, business failures.” The fact the mother of my two children had been made a target was pretty disturbing. As for “business failures,” I crowd-funded my tweets because my earnings from freelance journalism were insupportably low (though I love the job.)

A week or so later I received some anonymous texts mentioning vague legal threats and hoping I would “enjoy the weekend.” Some other Twitter accounts (which I didn’t see at the time) also wished me well for the weekend, and suggested some kind of “Daily Mail Tuesday.”

I recall seeing the Tweets at the time; one, which was quickly deleted, was from an obscure account controlled by a man who I know had helped Rice write the unpleasant blog about my mother; another one was an anonymous and abusive troll account that also carried goading comments about Tim and his partner. The account used the photo of a plus-size woman who had nothing to do with any of this; when her friend asked the author to remove the photo, he responded by saying that the woman should apologise for being ugly. The account was then deleted, although a copy has been saved.

As predicted by the Tweets, Peter was then approached by a journalist with the Daily Mail named Richard Marsden, who told him “he’d been handed an anonymised email with personal financial details and a separate piece of paper with my email address and mobile phone number”. The allegation was that Peter had lied about needing funding for a mortgage repayment, when in fact he supposedly had no mortgage; however:

I explained to him calmly that there was no mortgage on my property because I had sold it two weeks previously. I could easily prove I had quite a sizeable mortgage until then… It was an embarrassing mistake for them: it was a false, non-story. Soon afterwards Tabloid Troll closed down and deleted his account.

Peter doesn’t claim that the attempted “exposure” was down to Rice; again, readers must draw their own conclusion. Rice also had other possible motives for closing the account: a number of TabloidTroll Tweets easily showed that Rice was the account holder, and I was starting to involve the authorities over his threats to visit my mother. TabloidTroll’s own story was that he was going offline to write a book, although of course that would not necessitate deleting the account.

Appendix 1: The anonymous texts

Anonymous Texts

The anonymous texts remain a mystery – as can be seen above, the author falsely accuses Peter of having deleted material. On Twitter, Peter wondered how the sender had acquired his mobile number, and suggested that a breach of the Data Protection Act may have occurred. This prompted an interjection from a man named Andrew Roberjot (@frankiescar), who said: “I just asked a friend of mine who knows you for your mobile number, they gave it to me, How is that illegal?”

Peter then noted that his mobile number was known to Neil Wallis, the former deputy editor of the News of the World, and that Wallis had just recently before described Roberjot as his “drinking buddy”. Peter then confirmed that Wallis had his mobile number; this in turn prompted Wallis to accuse Peter of making “ludicrous allegations”. Roberjot then explained he had received the number from someone else, that he had just made the comment “to prove a point”, and that he hadn’t passed the number on to anyone else. The result of all this back-and-forth, which had been triggered by Roberjot’s initial comment, was that the question of who had actually sent Peter the crank texts was hopelessly beclouded. Perhaps that was the point.

Incidentally, Roberjot also claims to have met TabloidTroll, and to be able to confirm that he’s not Dennis Rice. He’s also said that a photo of Rice posted by Press Gazette to Flickr some time ago (and recently removed after it came to attention) is actually a photo of someone else. But I know for a fact that the photo indeed is of the correct person; and in this instance I’ll follow Peter’s example and allow readers to come to their own conclusions.

Appendix 2: Press Gazette

In August, Press Gazette published an article by Peter, headlined “How Peter Jukes invented a new way of funding court reporting and found himself investigated by the press”. It included details of the threat emanating from the TabloidTroll account to write about “Newsnight ex wife, business failures”, and the subsequent anonymous texts and botched mortgage smear.

The original version also referenced the threat which Dennis Rice made under his own name to write about Peter’s family, but this section of the article has now been removed. This is because Peter’s text gave the impression that both Tweets appeared around the same time. Press Gazette has now issued a correction, which includes the following:

…It quoted a Tweet from Rice to Jukes which read:  “So I am now going to write a blog about @peterjukes and his family – so he can enjoy a taste of his own medicine.” The extract mistakenly gave the impression that this message was sent in June 2014, around the time of a dispute over the reporting of the cost of the hacking trial.

In fact Rice posted the Tweet in January. He said it was in response to a tweet from the author which read: “You were hacked over a story about someone else’s private life Dennis. Yours was never outed.”

…Press Gazette has removed the reference to Dennis Rice from the article and would like to apologise to him for the mistake, and for not offering him right of reply in advance of publishing the extract.

I expect Rice saw that as some kind of vindication – and I’m sure he’s very relieved that his name has been taken out the main story. But it’s obviously a very minor point: it remains the case that Rice, under his own name, threatened to go after Peter’s family, not for any legitimate public interest reason, but to pursue private revenge.

However, I can understand why Rice doesn’t want to see Tweets made in his own name juxtaposed with those published under the TabloidTroll account: a forensic study of the two accounts published in 2012 indicated common authorship. Rice and TabloidTroll made exactly the same threat to Peter; most people should be able to work out what that means.

Another “Miracle” Claim In Gaza Conflict

A dramatic front-page teaser headline from WND:

Army: ‘Hand of God sent missile into sea’

Imagine that, the Israeli army has officially confirmed a miracle! Quick, let’s click through:

‘HAND OF GOD SENT MISSILE INTO SEA’
Iron Dome operator: ‘I witnessed this miracle with my own eyes’

So, not the “Army” as such, but a single Iron Dome operator. And who is he? Joe Kovacs tells the story (square brackets in original):

Israel Today translated a report from a Hebrew-language news site, which noted the Iron Dome battery failed three times to intercept an incoming rocket headed toward Tel Aviv last week.

The commander recalled: “A missile was fired from Gaza. Iron Dome precisely calculated [its trajectory]. We know where these missiles are going to land down to a radius of 200 meters. This particular missile was going to hit either the Azrieli Towers, the Kirya (Israel’s equivalent of the Pentagon) or [a central Tel Aviv railway station]. Hundreds could have died.

“We fired the first [interceptor]. It missed. Second [interceptor]. It missed… Suddenly, Iron Dome (which calculates wind speeds, among other things) shows a major wind coming from the east, a strong wind that … sends the missile into the sea. We were all stunned. I stood up and shouted, ‘There is a God!’

“I witnessed this miracle with my own eyes. It was not told or reported to me. I saw the hand of God send that missile into the sea.”

Had the rocket stayed on course, it would have been the most successful Hamas operation ever by far: hundreds massacred, and either a major landmark destroyed or Israel’s intelligence centre taken out. That’s beyond Hamas’ wildest expectations, and not really plausible.

Israel Today is a Christian Zionist publication, and its account of the story can be seen here. However, the Hebrew-language news site it relied on – Kooker - is itself derivative, dating from 29 July; there’s also an alternative English version, entitled “The Azrieli Towers Miracle” that appeared on My Western Wall two days earlier. It has a bit more about the unnamed “commander”:

A true and amazing story told by Ohad Shaked:

I received a phone call on Sunday from “A,” one of the Iron Dome commanders who was a student of mine about 6 years ago.

… “What happened?” I asked him. “A Missile was fired from Gaza. The Iron Dome can detect where the missile is going to fall within a 200 meter radius. This particular Missile was heading to the Azrieli Towers, or to the railroad tracks. Either way, hundreds could have paid with their lives!”

…We sent the first “dome” and it missed. Then the second as well as the third dome missed, this is a very rare occurrence. To date, only two other such cases occurred. I was in shock!

…There is a G-d’!!! I saw this miracle with my own eyes. No one told me about it, it was not reported to me.

Of course this was not reported for security reasons, but it’s enough to witness the miracles with our own eyes to know there is Hashem (G-d). I ran to one of the religious soldiers and asked him to put on tefillin. I took it upon myself to keep Shabbat, and that was the very best Shabbat I have ever had.” This is what he told me. I was so excited that it even brought a tear to my eye.

For some reason, the the threat to the Kirya is not included in this version. The “commander” remains anonymous, but we at least have a lead this time, in the name of Ohad Shaked. Shaked has previously written for YNet: he is a Haredi, and is billed as “a history and civics teacher at a Tel Aviv high school”.

Shaked also runs a Hebrew newsletter, called Shabbat Table, and a Hebrew report on this site, dated 29 July, cites this newsletter as the source of the story. It adds (via Google translate, slightly amended):

Responses on social networks raged over the veracity of the story, they flooded Shaked’s Facebook page with questions, he answered as best he could, without being able to provide personal information beyond what is written in the story, because the sensitivity of the matter.

However, the Facebook page for the newsletter hasn’t been updated since the start of July, and there’s nothing on Shaked’s website either. Much of the Hebrew text in this article, although not this sentence or any reference to Shaked, appeared on a blog on 27 July.

So, we’ve gone from an “Army” announcement, to the story that someone who may or may not be a Tel Aviv high school teacher named Ohad Shaked claims to have spoken to an anonymous Iron Dome commander. Thus are urban legends created.

And to illustrate the point further, another version of the story was posted as a comment to this blog just a few days ago:

I live outside the US, but I just received today an email from my daughter who lives in the US. She is friends with a member of a Hebrew congregation where she lives (my daughter is not Jewish) who received an email from her friend in Israel who helps man an Iron Dome site. The Iron Dome tech emailed her with an exciting email about how they had missed an incoming Hamas missle (more than once), it was minutes away from striking a tower near their site, when a large wind appeared from nowhere and blew the missle out to sea.

This was placed under my blog post about an earlier story from a couple of weeks ago, in which it was claimed that Hamas has admitted that “the God of the Jews” is diverting its missiles. That one was also picked up by WND – again, there’s a strange symbiosis between a Haredi account coming out of Israel and American evangelicalism.

WND: The Bible Predicts the Destruction of Gaza

Scary stuff, from “Glenn Beck’s End-Times Prophet” Joel Richardson, at WND:

What Does the Bible Say about the Future of Gaza?

…Now, for those who are seeking to take a middle-of-the-road stance, it may be a hard pill to swallow that much of Gaza will become devastated and deserted, being left for the righteous remnant of Judah. This, however, is exactly what the prophecy declared. This is not a historical prophecy. The prophecy is ultimately pertaining to the Day of the Lord and the Return of Jesus.

Of course, Richardson is not quite saying that this must be the immediate outcome of the current conflict, but he drops some heavy hints:

As the prophecy [of the Book of Joel] continues, it goes on to speak of the Lord specifically executing vengeance against those from the regions of Lebanon and Gaza who have engaged in violence against the people of Israel:

What are you to Me, O Tyre, Sidon (Lebanon) and all the regions of Philistia (Gaza)? Are you rendering Me a recompense? But if you do recompense Me, swiftly and speedily I will return your recompense on your head. (Joel 3:4)

Where it says “Tyre, Sidon,” and “the regions of Philistia” one could nearly insert Hezbollah and Hamas. It is nearly pulled from today’s headlines.

Erm, not quite. Here’s the proper context, from the verses following:

Since you have taken My silver and My gold, brought My precious treasures to your temples, and sold the sons of Judah and Jerusalem to the Greeks in order to remove them far from their territory, behold, I am going to arouse them from the place where you have sold them, and return your recompense on your head. Also I will sell your sons and your daughters into the hand of the sons of Judah, and they will sell them to the Sabeans, to a distant nation, for the LORD has spoken. Proclaim this among the nations: Prepare a war; rouse the mighty men! Let all the soldiers draw near, let them come up!

This makes absolutely no sense in terms of the modern world and the modern conflict in Gaza; the text clearly pertains to events in the ancient world, when it was written. The Philistines (themselves actually of Greek extraction) appear to have indulged in plunder and slave-trafficking at the time when the Southern Kingdom of Judah was up against the Babylonians, and the the author, writing a few years later, is rather sore about it. That’s it. Nothing to do with “Hezbollah and Hamas”, or “today’s headlines” in any meaningful sense: there are no pagan temples in Gaza with gold and silver expropriated from Judah; modern Israelis have not been sold by Gazan Palestinians into slavery in Greece; and modern Israel is not planning to sell Palestinians to a mercantile tribe in the south of Arabia.

Of course, its always possible to extrapolate from the text’s obvious meaning in an arbitrary way and impose some sort of “symbolic” meaning relating to current affairs (the “temples” as mosques, etc.), but there’s no sensible reason for doing so, and such a method is subjective and useless.

For the specific destruction of Gaza, Richardson turns to Zephaniah:

For Gaza will be abandoned. … Woe to the inhabitants of the seacoast, the nation of the Cherethites! The word of the LORD is against you, O Canaan, land of the Philistines; and I will destroy you so that there will be no inhabitant. So the seacoast will be pastures, with caves for shepherds and folds for flocks. And the coast will be for the remnant of the house of Judah, they will pasture on it. In the houses of Ashkelon they will lie down at evening; For the LORD their God will care for them and restore their fortune.

This is indeed a vision about the future. But again, looking at the text in proper context show that the author’s concerns belong very much in the ancient world. At home, he fulminates against worshippers of Milcom and royal courtiers in “outlandish clothes” at the Jerusalem Temple; abroad, Gaza is just at the head of a shit-list that includes Moab and Ammon, Ethiopia (which will “be run through by my sword”), and the Assyrians. It has nothing to do with twenty-first century politics.

Richardson is not a man without compassion – indeed, he’s quick to add that prophecy of Joel does not refer to “every single inhabitant of Lebanon and Gaza” – but “Gaza will become devastated and deserted, being left for the righteous remnant of Judah” is unambiguously eliminationist.

The Bible can help believers think seriously about where they should stand morally in relation to current events. But the ramblings of self-styled “prophecy experts” such as Richardson are a way to avoid thinking seriously about what’s actually going on in the real world.

World Public Forum Promotes Statements Defending Russia On MH17

A number of times now, I’ve written about a Russian “soft power” initiative called the World Public Forum: Dialogue of Civilizations. The WPF was co-founded by Vladmir Yakunin, a devoutly Orthodox member of Putin’s inner circle and the head of Russia’s railways, and it has made links with an extraordinary array of top-tier academics, religious leaders, and emeritus politicians (along with some rather more eccentric figures). These links have been showcased at international conferences in Rhodes and Vienna, and in publications. The WPF is strongly critical of American hegemony, but its pious talk of “dialogue” and a “multi-polar world” happily coincide with Russia’s interests.

And, thus, it just so happens that the two items the WPF has chosen to publicise on its website as responses to the the shooting down of Flight MH17 are articles that warn against blaming Russia. The pieces are not official statements of the WPF itself; rather, they are  ruminations by intellectuals who have a connections with the WPF. However, we can have no doubt that they reflect views that the WPF find congenial.

First up is an item by Hans Köchler (var. Hans Koechler), billed as “President, International Progress Organization, Austria”. Köchler’s piece – written in third person, as a press release – is entitled “Urgent Call for Independent International Investigation“.  Köchler warns against the investigation into the disaster becoming “politicized”, and he makes the extraordinary claim that the BBC has removed information from its Russian website. Köchler also cites the murkiness around Pan Am Flight 103 – he was an ” international observer” of the criminal trial in Scotland that followed the bombing, and he’s become something of an expert:  RIA Novosti interviewed him on the subject just yesterday. Köchler is also reportedly a 9/11 Truther.

The second piece is a rather less subtle affair, by Chandra Muzaffar, “President, International Movement for a Just World (JUST)“. Entitled “Who Stands to Gain?” Spectacularly missing the point that the rebels mistakenly thought that they would “gain” by shooting down a military plane, Mazaffar opines:

It is obvious that those who seek to punish Russia and the pro-Russian rebels, namely, the elite in Washington and Kiev, are poised to gain the most from the MH 17 episode. Does it imply that they would have had a role in the episode itself? Only a truly independent and impartial international inquiry would be able to provide the answer.

Although he also has some preliminary conclusions of his own already, such as that

a You Tube video showing a Russian General and Ukrainian rebels discussing their role in mistakenly downing a civilian aircraft was, from various tell-tale signs, produced before the event.

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.