A Note on Lin Wood and the “Cabala Harris” Nickname

From Capital Beat News Service, earlier this month:

Republican leaders in Georgia delivered different responses Friday to President Donald Trump’s claims of voting irregularities

…Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel…. was joined at the podium by former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, Trump’s agriculture secretary; outgoing state Rep. Vernon Jones; and attorney Lin Wood, who intentionally mispronounced Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris’ name as “Cabala” Harris during his remarks.

Wood has now achieved greater prominence after stating that he has been working closely with Sidney Powell, the former federal prosecutor whose wide-ranging and conspiratorial claims of electoral fraud have been eagerly embraced by many Trump supporters (but that have apparently proven too extravagant for Trump himself). In the wake of his announcement, Wood has made a further reference to “Cabala Harris” on his Twitter feed, which also includes numerous Biblical quotes and religious exhortations.

Apparently, the abusive nickname has been going around for some time. It’s significance is not simply wilfully ignorant mockery of an unusual name (as in Georgia Senator David Perdue’s “Kamala-mala-mala”) or some vague allusion to a “Deep State” cabal – it is pointedly meant to associate Harris with the Jewish mystical tradition. Other, more explicit, variants on Twitter include “Kabbalah Heiress” and even “Kabbalah Haaretz”, referring to the left-of-centre Israeli newspaper. These must be allusions to the fact that Harris’s husband is Jewish, and there is a wider context here in that kabbalah is regarded with suspicion by many evangelicals, who see its esoteric doctrines and practices as occultism rather than spiritual exercise. The implication is that Harris is some kind of witch, embroiled with malign supernatural forces and hidden networks through her Jewish husband.

As such, it is surprising that Wood’s “Cabala” rhetoric has not drawn more adverse comment.

Footnote: The Capital Beat News Service report refers to “Kalama Harris”; this has been silently corrected in the above quote.

Public Figures and Fringe Media: A Note on Martin Kulldorff and the Richie Allen Show

From the Guardian:

Anti-lockdown advocate appears on radio show that has featured Holocaust deniers

Dr Martin Kulldorff discussed ‘Great Barrington declaration’ letter on Richie Allen Show

…When asked by the Guardian about his appearance on the show, Kulldorff said: “As a public health professional, it is critically important to reach all segments of the population.

“I have appeared in both right (eg the Spectator) and left media (eg Jacobin) … Regarding the Richie Allen Show, I had never heard of it before they invited me.”

Kulldorff is professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and a biostatistician and epidemiologist. The article notes that the show has previously featured the Holocaust deniers Nick Kollerstrom and Alison Chabloz, as well as “longstanding conspiracy theorists Dr Vernon Coleman and Piers Corbyn” – Allen, a protégé of David Icke, called Kollerstrom an “old friend”. The story has also been picked by the Jewish Chronicle.

The headline, it seems to me, unfairly gives the impression of some sort of affinity between Kulldorff and extremism, when I think we can take him at his word that he knew nothing about Richie Allen when he agreed to talk to him.

At the same time, though, it is a strategy of bad actors involved with alternative media and the conspiracy milieu to elicit content from more mainstream figures as a way to boost their own reach and credibility. When this happens, it is appropriate to ask the guest contributor to clarify their association and where exactly they stand. Appearing on the Richie Allen Show ought to be a reputational risk for anyone who wants to be taken seriously in public life.

Previous guests on the Richie Allen Show with reputations beyond the conspiracy milieu include Michael Mansfield, Ann Widdecombe and Maggie Oliver. Oliver in particular is much lauded as “the Rochdale whistleblower”, yet she frequently accepts interview requests from bad actors, whose sites she then amplifies on social media. Yet there seems to be less appetite for criticising “the angel of the North” than for going after a lockdown sceptic. (1)

Note

1. The “Great Barrington Declaration” is a creation of the American Institute for Economic Research, which is based in Great Barrington in Massachusetts. It claims to have the support of a large number of medical experts, although it has transpired that anyone can sign the document online without having their identity or credentials checked. When a journalist named Nafeez Ahmed demonstrated how easily a false name can be added, the AIER’s Editorial Director Jeffrey Tucker accused him of having “urged his followers to commit fraud and impersonate medical doctors and scientists”.

Some Notes on Laurence Fox and Libel

From Sky News:

A RuPaul’s Drag Race star and a charity boss have said they are suing actor Laurence Fox for defamation following arguments on Twitter in which he called some of his critics “paedophiles”.

Fox has since deleted the tweets, but said he made the comments after being “falsely smeared as a racist” when he criticised Sainsbury’s for supporting Black History Month.

Drag star Crystal and Simon Blake, the deputy chair of Stonewall and chief executive of Mental Health First Aid England, have both said they are suing Fox.

There are shades here of Elon Musk’s similar abuse against Vernon Unsworth, which led to a legal case in Los Angeles. That libel action failed primarily because Musk’s defence successfully argued that the term “pedo guy” was an insult rather than an actual allegation, even though Musk initially doubled down and looked for substantive evidence. The defence was characterised as “JDART”, meaning “Joke that was badly received, therefore was Deleted, with an Apology, followed by Responsive Tweets to move on from the issue”.

Fox could argue along similar lines in London, and there is a semi-precedent from 2007, when a High Court ruling made a distinction between serious allegations posted to an online message board and “messages which are barely defamatory or little more than abusive or likely to be understood as jokes”. On the other hand, though, and as I’ve argued before, “paedophile” is not just some meaningless term of crude abuse like “bastard” or “wanker”. It is a highly stigmatising allegation, and a public figure being allowed to bandy it around even as a “joke” is a sinister development. “Jokes” can be a form of intimidation and incitement, and amplified by others beyond the original context may easily become established as some kind of spurious “common knowledge”.

Oddly, Fox’s outburst and its was not chronicled in the Daily Telegraph or the Sunday Telegraph, even though the two papers have spent the last two weeks puffing the actor’s political pretensions based on nothing more than the fact that a wealthy donor, Jeremy Hosking, is reportedly bankrolling his efforts to create a “UKIP for culture”. Presumably the papers have decided that the incident is not to Fox’s credit and as such is best passed over in silence.

Excursus – the “racist” allegations

Fox could of course himself sue for libel over the “racism” allegations, although the case would hinge on the defendants’ right to express a view on what kind of opinions constitute racism – nobody is accusing Fox of having said or done anything that he disputes actually happened.

It should also be noted that allegations of racism are central to Fox’s own rhetoric – the Question Time appearance that launched his new activist persona included the claim that the concept of “white privilege” is racist, and he more recently accused Rebecca Front of using a “racist phrase”. He also essentially accused Sainsbury’s of racism (“you promote racial segregation and discrimination”). This works against the suggestion that his “paedophile” Tweets were some kind of principled protest against the casual deployment of “racist” as a descriptive term.

One last point: it appears that Fox objected in particular to Sainsbury’s announcing “online support groups for black colleagues across the business”. However, he does not appear to have objected to widespread media reports that have alluded his Tweet in relation to Sainsbury’s promotion of Black History Month more generally.

Darren Grimes and the Police: Some Observations and Suggestions

From the Daily Telegraph:

Darren Grimes is being investigated by police on suspicion of stirring up racial hatred over an interview with the historian David Starkey that he published, it has emerged.

Mr Grimes, a conservative commentator, has been asked to attend a police station to be interviewed under caution after publishing a podcast in which Dr Starkey said slavery was not genocide because there are “so many damn blacks”.

…Mr Grimes is accused of a public order offence of stirring up racial hatred by publishing the interview on his podcast on July 2, The Telegraph can reveal. He has since apologised…

Grimes is framing the affair as a journalist being persecuted for a comment made by an interviewee, although his hack credentials are slight and the “interview” was a cosy chat with a man he described as being his hero.

Nevertheless, the sight of Grimes once again in the public eye as a martyr is dispiriting, and the policing priorities it exposes are disturbing. I here make a few observations.

First, the bar at which someone may be interviewed under caution is quite low. This has been obscured in recent years by sensationalising headlines and news stories, such as this one about the late Edward Heath.

Second, the police are not obligated to interview someone just because a complaint has been made. They could have decided that there was no case to answer based on the evidence already in the public domain; they could have logged Starkey’s words as a more trivial “hate incident“; or they could have given Starkey and Grimes informal “words of advice”.

Third, there is little chance of this coming to court, and Grimes may want to demonstrate that the complaint has no merit by declining to cooperate. He could do this in two ways:

(a) He could refuse to come in for a “voluntary” interview, and see if the police back down or escalate to an arrest. There is a risk to police if they make a wrongful arrest, but they can get away with threatening to make an arrest that would be wrongful, if the threat remains hypothetical because the suspect complies.

(b) He could give a “no comment” interview. Grimes is confident that he has acted within the law, and so he has no need to explain himself. It may go against his natural inclinations, and of course there is a popular conception that refusing to answer is suspicious, but a police investigation that fails without a suspect even putting forward a defence case will be exposed more unambiguously as having been deficient from the start.

Also, if Grimes provides a statement, the police can spend months mulling it over, and then announce that a “dossier” has been passed to the CPS. The CPS can then sit on it indefinitely, especially given the current circumstances. A “no comment” interview is more likely to lead to a speedy resolution.

Satanic Ritual Abuse Conspiracy Campaigner Sentenced After Harassing Judge

From the Newark Advertiser in March:

A 43-year-old man was found guilty of harassing a judge after posting video footage online and writing a blog.

Richard Carvath was arrested by Nottinghamshire Police officers on March 12, 2019, after a report he was tweeting and posting footage online of a judge.

The judge was involved with a family case in 2017 that cannot be reported on for legal reasons.

I understand that Carvath has just now – six month later – been sentenced to 20 weeks in prison. The reason for the long delay was that Carvath previously declined to make himself available for sentencing; in a video message in June, he stated mysteriously that he was “unavoidably detained on assignment” but would return in due course.

Carvath is well-known for his promotion of Satanic abuse conspiracy theories, including the Hampstead Ritual Abuse hoax – his activism here included creating and uploading a pointless video of the school at the centre of the false allegations. Last December he stood trial after accusing “a dad of abusing his own children in a satanic ritual”, although he was found not guilty; a report at the time described Carvath as claiming “to have links to a shadowy world of secret agents and military contractors”. He certainly has at least indirect links with the milieu that includes the likes of Jon Wedger and Wilfred Wong, although as far as I know they don’t appear to have commented about Carvath’s trial.

Reporting restrictions mean that I’m not linking to any of Carvath’s online writings, or going into further detail.

Two Christian Right Prayer Rallies Coming to Washington, D.C. on 26 September

Franklin Graham to lead “Washington Prayer March” at Lincoln Memorial while his sister Anne Graham Lotz to open a “Day of Prayer and Repentance” on the National Mall

From the website of the Washington Prayer March 2020:

Join Franklin Graham For A Prayer March In Our Nation’s Capital

“America is in trouble. Our communities are hurting, our people are divided, and there’s fear and uncertainty all around us. Let’s join together and do the most important thing: pray!”

– Franklin Graham

The Washington Prayer March 2020 event is a dedicated prayer march that is focused solely on asking God to heal our land. It is not a protest or political event, and we are asking participants to not bring signs in support of any candidate or party.

It is hard to take this “non-political” claim at face value: just a few weeks ago, Graham provided an opening prayer at the GOP Convention, and his social media output makes it very clear that he is an enthusiast for Donald Trump and all his works (1). While Billy Graham successfully positioned himself as a national figure (disarming the media) Franklin Graham’s horizons are circumscribed by the values and political priorities of the Christian Right, although he’s careful to present himself as a generic evangelical who is not tied to particular schemes regarding the End Times or beliefs about the activities of demons and such.

The event is scheduled for Saturday 26 September between 12 noon and 2 pm at the Lincoln Memorial, which is interesting given that a day-long Christian Right rally will taking place at the same time on the far side of the Washington Monument in the National Mall. This event, called “The Return: National and Global Day of Prayer and Repentance“, describes itself thus:

In the book of Joel, the prophet recognized that the Day of Judgment by God was at hand. He then called for a holy convocation (a solemn assembly) of all people and their leaders to repentance. The Bible gives many examples of solemn assemblies, but its main focus is a special time allotted for the repentence from sin(s) that may invite the judgment of God upon the nation. …The last time our nation was called to a solemn assembly was by Abraham Lincoln. We are long overdue for a time of repentance before God.

In contrast to the Franklin Graham event, “The Return” features an extensive list of Christian Right  and conservative celebrities, including Graham’s sister Anne Graham Lotz as one of the opening guests.

Lotz will appear alongside Johnathan Cahn, the author of several very popular books in which he has claimed that his Jewish heritage gives him special insight into “mysteries” encoded in the Bible that relate to current affairs – thus Hilary Clinton is mystically linked to Jezebel, while Donald Trump is a modern counterpart to the Israelite King Jehu.

The “Faith Leaders” guiding the event include Keven and Sam Sorbo, Pat Boone, E.W. Jackson and William “Jerry” Boykin, although top billing surprisingly goes to “J. Thomas Smith Esq.”, a lesser-known figure who has served as “a Vice-President of Men For Nations, the worldwide ministry of Dick Simmons”. The many participants also include Michele Bachmann and “Congressman Michael Cloud, Judge Vance Day, Governor Huckabee, Ralph Drollinger”, as well as Frank Gaffney and Stephen Strang, owner of the neo-Pentecostal Charisma media operation and the author of God and Donald Trump, which was brandished by Trump himself at Davos in 2018.

Footnote

1. Many people have had fun with the contrast between Graham’s censure of Bill Clinton over his affair with Monica Lewinsky (“If [Clinton] will lie to or mislead his wife… what will prevent him from doing the same to the American public?”) and his willingness to shrug off Trump’s transactional sex with the pornographic actress Stormy Daniels (“nobody’s business”). In 2013, Trump was among the figures who appeared in a photo with Billy Graham to celebrate the evangelist’s 95th birthday, alongside the the likes of Sarah Palin and Rupert Murdoch. One commentator suggested that Graham looked less than happy about being “a voiceless prop called upon to lend a sheen of respectability” to such people.

A Note on Companies House Reform

From a UK Government press release:

The UK’s register of company information will be reformed to clamp down on fraud and money laundering, the government has announced today (Friday 18 September).

Under the plans, directors will not be able to be appointed until their identity has been verified by Companies House.

The changes aim to increase the reliability of the data showing who is behind each company so that businesses have greater assurance when they are entering transactions with other companies, such as when small businesses are consulting the register to research potential suppliers and partners.

This a welcome reform – there is a general assumption that the register makes businesses and directors accountable, when it does nothing of the sort. Back in 2017 the accounting academic Prem Sikka noted that

Transparency Intentional investigated 52 large scale global corruption and money laundering cases involving £80bn and found that some 766 UK corporations were involved. Forming companies with fictitious shareholders/directors and non-existent addresses is all too easy.

Italian Mafia registered companies in the UK and gave officers name as “the Chicken Thief” resident at “Street of the 40 Thieves” in the town of Ali Babba”. Companies House accepted the documentation and government confirmed that it took “no action”.

As well as fictitious identities, the register has also failed to prevent identity theft: in 2018 the name of Esther McVey MP was fraudulently registered to a company called “Loyal Scots”, which then became the basis for a bogus “gotcha” published on Skwawkbox. For some reason, the left-wing website showed no interest in the real scandal they had stumbled on, which was that Companies House is not fit for purpose. McVey went on to make the subject an issue of particular concern to her, stating a few months later that “It is all well having a register, but it seems there is no compliance activity so what confidence can the public have in what appears on the register?”

There is still some other problems, though, that continue to undermine the credibility of Companies House and the accountability of British business. I discussed these previously here, after the then Minister for Small Business Andrew Griffiths (prior to his disgrace in a sex scandal) promised that “the government will come down hard on people who knowingly break the law and file false information on the company registry”. The only example Griffiths had was of a man who had filed false information quite openly to prove a point.

As regards director names, if you click on the name of a company director you are supposed to be able to see their other appointments, both current and going back a few years. However, quite often they are not cross-referenced in this way, particularly if a director used a different address or gave a different version of their own name (e.g. adding or leaving off a given name element). This linkage failure may happen quite innocently, but it benefits bad actors who want to conceal particular associations and activities.

And as regards addresses, a false address does not have to be a complete fabrication. One trick is to provide a service address where a lot of companies are properly registered; another is to find a genuine office block and give that location but leave off a specific suite number or floor number. A third strategy is to provide a genuine address, but then move away without submitting updated details. If the fraud is not completely blatant anyone caught out will get away with it by claiming that there has been some innocent error or oversight.

The upshot is that a director with business debts or some other problem can disappear quite easily – and if they have a common name they can create a new company with a new service address without there being any evident connection with a past business failure.

A Note on Li-Meng Yan and Social Media

From Mail Online:

Twitter has suspended the account of a Chinese virologist who has publicly claimed that COVID-19 was developed in a Wuhan laboratory.

Li-Meng Yan’s account was taken down on Tuesday after she accused China of intentionally manufacturing and releasing COVID-19.

…In an interview with Fox News’ Tucker Carlson on Tuesday night, Yan claimed she was suspended because ‘they don’t want the people to know this truth’.

…After the segment aired, the Fox News show also accused Facebook of censorship after saying they had been blocked from sharing the interview segment on the social media platform.

A video of the interview segment posted on the Tucker Carlson Tonight show’s page now comes with a warning that reads: ‘False Information. This post repeats information about COVID-19 that independent fact-checkers say is false.’

l discussed Yan and her claims yesterday. Currently, Twitter is flooded with expressions of support for the former Hong Kong University research fellow, with many users taking the view that her Twitter suspension (as @LiMengYan119) proves the strength of her case. Some of these users have re-uploaded her media appearances, and there’s even a new account in her name (@li_meng_yan), which is either impersonation or a ban evasion.

It is possible that Yan’s account has been suspended as part of Twitter’s Canute-like efforts against misinformation; however, there may be another reason, such as inauthentic behaviour designed to boost the account’s prominence – given that Yan is under the guidance of Steve Bannon, this is not a far-fetched suggestion.

As regards the Carlson interview, this has been flagged by Facebook rather than blocked – anyone using the platform can view it, but they must click a “See Video” button first. This button sometimes appears over the video and sometimes under it (presumably depending on the platform being used) – in the latter position, it can be cropped off screenshots to give a false impression of censorship. Facebook users are also invited to click on a “See Why” button to find our why the interview has been flagged – this brings up links to Factcheck.org and USA Today debunking claims that the coronavirus was bioengineered. This is less than ideal, though: Yan claims to have new information, and so a flag based on older sources gives an impression that the warning serves to re-enforce a consensus rather than address misinformation.

Carlson, as one would expect, claims that this is censorship at the behest of the Chinese government. This is unlikely – there is plenty of material on Twitter and Facebook that the Chinese Communist Party must find objectionable, and Yan’s purported “evidence” has been dismissed by scientists (1). The one thing that really has been artificially engineered is Yan’s sudden media prominence, and social media owners are pushing back against this kind of manipulation as the US election draws close.

Footnote

1. Yesterday, I noted a Twitter thread by Kristian G. Andersen of the Department of Immunology and Microbiology at Scripps Research, as well critical accounts of Yan’s claims published in the Daily Beast (“Steve Bannon Is Behind Bogus Study That China Created COVID”) and Newsweek (“Fact-check: Does a New Study Give Evidence that the Coronavirus Was Made In a Lab?”). There are also pieces in Forbes (“‘Whistleblower’ Claiming China Created Covid-19 Coronavirus Has Ties To Steve Bannon”) and the New York Times (“Actually, a Chinese Virologist Didn’t Prove That Covid-19 Was Man-Made”), as well as a post by Alex Berezow at the American Council on Science and Health (“COVID: No, Coronavirus Wasn’t Created In A Laboratory. Genetics Shows Why”). Among conservatives, Jim Geraghty at the National Review advises “skepticism”, but adds the banal point that her lack of evidence doesn’t prove the virus might not be manipulated in some way.

The Awful Covid Disclosures of Li-Meng Yan: Steve Bannon Associate Makes “Bioweapon” Allegation

(Expanded)

From Fox News, July:

A Hong Kong virologist who fled to the U.S. earlier this year told “Bill Hemmer Reports” in an exclusive interview Monday that lives could have been saved if the Chinese government hadn’t censored her work.

…[Li-Ming] Yan exclusively told Fox News Digital last week that she believes the Chinese government knew about the novel coronavirus well before acknowledging the outbreak publicly. She also claimed her supervisors, renowned as some of the top experts in the field, ignored research she was doing at the onset of the pandemic that she believes could have saved lives.

From Fox News, September:

The Chinese government intentionally manufactured and released the COVID-19 virus that led to mass shutdowns and deaths across the world, a top virologist and whistleblower told Fox News host Tucker Carlson on Tuesday.

Carlson specifically asked Dr. Li-Meng Yan whether she believed the Chinese Communist Party released the virus “on purpose.” “Yes, of course, it’s intentionally,” she responded on “Tucker Carlson Tonight.”

Yan said more evidence would be released but pointed to her own high-ranking position at a World Health Organization reference lab as a reason to trust her allegation.

The video of the interview shows Yan claiming that the coronavirus is like a “cow, with a deer’s head, rabbit’s ears, and a monkey’s hands” – in other words, SARS-CoV-2 is such a monstrous anomaly that human origins should be obvious immediately to any scientist working on it. So how come no-one else has drawn attention to the same evidence? And why didn’t she mention it in July, instead of confining herself to a less sensational claim about transmission? In August, the Mail on Sunday reported only that Yan “fears the disease may have been created on purpose”, rather than that she had definite proof.

On the first point, Yan alleges that scientists are in fact all in the know, but are keeping quiet due to the global influence of the Chinese Communist Party (1). And on the second, it appears that Yan was making her “bioweapon” allegation within the milieu of Steve Bannon’s alternative media “War Room”, but for some reason was holding back when speaking to Fox. The current round of media interest derives from a new paper, where she gives her current affiliation as “Rule of Law Society & Rule of Law Foundation”. As has been noted elsewhere, Bannon created both organisations in cooperation with Guo Wengui, a US-based Chinese billionaire who has been accused of corruption by the Chinese authorities. Guo also runs a website called G-News, and in June he and Bannon announced the creation of a Chinese “government-in-exile”, under the name “New Federal State of China”. Both G-News and promotional material for the “New Federal State” have been amplifying Yan’s claims (2).

The Sun followed up on the Mail on Sunday profile with a piece that described Yan as a “heroic whistleblower”, and last week the paper’s headline was shown when she made an appearance on Loose Women, a light-entertainment chat-show on ITV. Feeding back to the US, this was then reported in the New York Post ahead of her interview with Carlson.

As regards her credentials, Yan does have an academic publication history, but it is not extensive and it’s impossible to identify what exactly her contribution was to each co-authored item. One piece, published in the Lancet in March, was “correspondence” rather than a peer-reviewed article. Hong Kong University denies she worked on human-to-human transmission, and describes her as a former “post-doctoral fellow”rather than a “top virologist” with a “high-ranking position”.

The paper itself (“Unusual Features of the SARS-CoV-2 Genome Suggesting Sophisticated Laboratory Modification Rather Than Natural Evolution and Delineation of Its Probable Synthetic Route”) has simply been uploaded to Zenodo rather than published through academic processes; it is being referred to as “the Yan Report”, although three “Rule of Law Society” co-authors are also listed (Shu Kang, Jie Guan and Shanchang Hu). It has not been well-received by scientists; on Twitter, Kristian G. Andersen, from the Department of Immunology and Microbiology at Scripps Research, describes it as “non-scientific and false – cherry picking data and ignoring data disproving their hypotheses”.

He explains:

It’s using technical language that is impossible to decode for non-experts – poppycock dressed up as ‘science’. [1]

– “SARS-CoV-2 was created using ZC45 and/or ZXC21 bat coronaviruses”.

This simply can’t be true – there are more than 3,500 nucleotide differences between SARS-CoV-2 and these viruses. [2]

– The report ignores ALL recent coronavirus data from pangolins and bats.

Had this been included, the data would have invalidated all the ‘mysterious’ homology findings in the report as they relate to matrix protein, Orf8, receptor binding domain, etc. [3]

“Smoking gun” in the form of restriction sites.

These sites are not unique, are all present in genomes ignored by the authors (e.g., RaTG13), and are expected to be present by random chance. None of these would have been used for cloning. [4]

– Blueprint for how to make SARS-CoV-2.

Instead of following the absurd ‘recipe’ for creating SARS-CoV-2 described in the report, here’s how one could actually do it: [Link] [5]

– “Proximal Origin” paper authors are conflicted.

Not correct – my lab has never received funding from China and we have no collaborations with Chinese investigators. I have no financial interests in China. All our analyses are scientific and unbiased. [6]

Newsweek has similarly dismissive quotes from scientists, and it notes the paper’s “conspiratorial tone”:

To back up their assertion that authors of a Nature Medicine article had undisclosed conflicts of interest, they point to an announcement of an award given by China to Dr. Ian Lipkin, an epidemiologist at Columbia, for his work on the country’s disease preparedness after the first SARS outbreak. The other reference links to a scientist’s C.V.

Andersen also draws attention to a photograph that shows Rudy Giuliani posing with an associate of Guo who goes by the name of Lude, while Bannon and Yan appear behind them in a mirror. This photo was noted by J. Michael Waller a few days previously, as evidence against Yan’s claim to be “in hiding”. Rather, “she is going around with Guo Wengui’s sidekicks Lude and Bannon, who are on an image-salvaging operation to make themselves look connected to Trump”.

(Name variations: Limeng Yan; Yan Limeng; Yan Li-Meng; 闫丽梦; 閆麗夢)

Footnotes

1. Some of Yan’s supporters have referred to an article that appeared in the Daily Telegraph in June, which reported three scientists as claiming that the virus had “fingerprints” that were “indicative of purposive manipulation”. These were quotes from an article that at the time had not been published, although the Telegraph made up for this by referring to an earlier peer-reviewed article by the same authors and by securing an endorsement from former MI6 head Richard Dearlove, thus giving a spurious “intelligence” imprimatur. The article did subsequently appear, but it was not peer reviewed – indeed, the Telegraph report indicates that it consists of material that had had to be excised from the earlier paper following the peer-review process. However, it should be noted that the article – by Birger Sørensen, Angus Dalgleish and Andres Susrud – refers specifically to “the biochemistry of the Spike”. One wonders why scientists who were looking for evidence of human manipulation did not anticipate Yan’s far broader claims.

2. These promotional materials are branded to an organisation called “Himalaya”, which is active in several countries. Twitter accounts linked to Himalaya show street advertising in London (as well as an advert in the Evening Standard), as well as a protest event in Germany where participants waved a blue flag and held a banner bearing Yan’s face. There have even been leaflets promoting Yan’s claims delivered through people’s letterboxes: one was received by a resident of Kent named Chris McBride, who has uploaded images to Twitter (here and here). The leaflet describes Himalaya UK as a “social and economic entity that is established by warriors of the Whistleblower Movement, who devoted to pursue democracy, rule of law, and freedom”. Guo has also composed a song called “Take Down the CCP”; Bannon’s associate Raheem Kassam (who interviewed Yan a week before Carlson) can be seen promoting it here.

Daily Telegraph Runs “Cheese and Pizza Emojis as Secret Code” Story

From the UK Daily Telegraph:

Paedophiles using cheese and pizza emojis as secret code on social media

Cheese and pizza emojis are being used as a secret code by paedophiles to communicate on social media sites such as Instagram and Twitter, online safety groups have warned.

A group of more than 100 volunteer parents has banded together to hunt down and report accounts using the emoji to signal they are sharing sexualised images of children, in a bid to evade detection by the social media giants.

Members of the parents’ group told The Telegraph they often found such accounts sharing images of children taken in family settings such on beaches or gardens, which appeared to have been stolen from the parents’ social media profiles.

…The group of parents was started by India, a 27-year-old executive assistant from London, who asked the paper not to use her surname, and who stumbled across the child image accounts on social media.

Since then she has set up Twitter and Instagram pages, called ProtectPD, dedicated to naming accounts she finds sharing child images so her followers can report them en masse to the social media giants.

…India, who has had direct talks with officials at Instagram over the issue, said the accounts often signaled what they were doing by using cheese and pizza emojis, to represent ‘CP’ meaning ‘child porn’…

The story, by the paper’s social media correspondent, has been met with some incredulity. The story is not impossible, but the notion that banal symbols have a secret meaning that allows us to identify and expose malign actors is an old trope of urban myths, and there is a risk here that innocent people will find themselves falsely accused simply because they have used the emojis in their plain sense.

In this instance, there is also the particular context of “Pizzagate“, the conspiracy theory that has since largely folded into QAnon. Some social media users have expressed the opinion that the Telegraph has been taken in by a QAnon group, while QAnon supporters have cited the article as evidence proving their claims that elite abusers communicate openly via an extensive vocabulary of code words, some of which are Pizza-related. (1)

One problem with the story is that it is difficult to scrutinise the claims for ourselves. An individual or group claiming to have exclusive information that pertains to some topic of urgent public interest is always a tempting prospect for journalists, but more than once we’ve seen how the end result is flawed journalism that ends up promoting misinformation (the Sun‘s “Hijacked Labour” fiasco is a recent instance of this; some reports about Islamic extremism from about a decade ago are another). Did the journalist check out India’s identity and her claims to have 100 associates? Did he see screenshots of the emojis being used in the way claimed?

Bellingcat’s Nick Waters observes that:

The social media accounts of this group were set up in (wait for it) August 2020. Bit of a red flag.

It takes about 30 seconds of scrolling to find some absolutely insane stuff, for example implying Avicii [a Swedish musician who took his own life in 2018] was murdered for exposing child trafficking.

In contrast, though, India’s own account (now protected) goes back to 2009, when (if taken at face value) she would have been 16 years old (no direct link here as the trail may lead back to an unrelated individual).

Another concern is the nature of the research being undertaken. The story is careful to specify that the the group has uncovered the sexualising misuse of innocent images that were taken from legitimate social media accounts belonging to parents. But surely the nature of their project is very likely to lead to them accessing indecent and/or abuse images? Someone else who reviewed some of the group’s content before it was deleted from the internet suggests that it posted “images with details blurred”, which may indicate that it indeed found such images; but “research” is not a legal defence for accessing illegal images, let alone downloading them to add blurring. Further, she suggests that the group’s exposure activities may actually be making it easier to find such material (she asks: “What sort of idiot would publicise hashtags to an English speaking audience that are used in the Philippines that lead to illegal content?”).

Footnote

1. A New York Times article on the origins of Pizzagate from late 2016 notes that “A participant on 4chan connected the phrase ‘cheese pizza’ to pedophiles, who on chat boards use the initials “c.p.” to denote child pornography.” Of course, it is possible that code words as reported in the media then get taken up for real, although it seems an odd thing to do if the point is to communicate discreetly.