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A Note on Dominic Cummings and a 2011 Troll Account

From an editorial in the Observer in early 2013:

Today, this paper alleges that a Twitter feed emanating in part, or wholly, from within the Department of Education is using its anonymity – when not dispensing perfectly reasonable policy analysis – to defame, disparage and damage political opponents and journalists. Contributions to the Twitter feed included taunting opponents about “mental illness” and retweeting remarks suggesting that a journalist had had a breakdown.

According to the associated report:

…the account has likened one respected reporter, the Financial Times‘ education correspondent, Chris Cook, to Walter Mitty and suggested he was a “stalker”. It has also retweeted insinuations about his personal life.

…The Observer understands that two of [Education Secretary Michael] Gove’s special advisers, Dominic Cummings and Henry de Zoete, were approached in 2011 by Henry Macrory, then Tory party head of press, and were asked to tone down their input into the feed which Macrory thought was inappropriate.

The account was called @toryeducation, and this was several years before Cummings had become a household name. Recently, Cummings has begun using social media to give an account of his time when he was at the heart of the Brexit “Leave” campaign and later of Boris Johnson’s government. However, he hasn’t yet returned to the above incident, despite being asked about it on Twitter.

In addition to the articles in the Observer, his 2013 exchange with the paper’s editor John Mulholland ahead of publication was posted online by Paul Waugh on his blog The Waugh Room, which ran as part of PoliticsHome. The blog has since expired and is now consigned to the Internet Archive, which means it can’t be found by search engines. As such, I here take the liberty of pasting the material below.

The exchange is unedifying, but it provides insight into Cummings’s character. Cummings engages in mockery and evasion, and takes the stance that the matter is beneath his notice while going on at greater length than would be required for a simple denial or admission or proper explanation. He also seizes on Mulholland confusing the name of the account under discussion – @toryeducation went by the name “Tory Education News”, and Mulholland accidentally referred to @educationnews. Cummings affects to take this at face value, even though he knows damn well what Mulholland means.

It may be old news, but government advisors misusing their work time (and our money) to engage in social media trolling and composing deliberately uninformative emails in response to serious press enquiries is unfinished business. How widespread is the practice? And what does it say about Michael Gove, who may yet one day take over from Johnson as Prime Minister? The Observer editorial was headlined “Answers, Mr Gove”; we never actually got any.

From: CUMMINGS, Dominic
Sent: 01 February 2013 14:13
To: ‘Jade Amias’ [PA to John Mulholland]
Cc: PERMANENT, Secretary

Subject: RE: Urgent letter from John Mulholland

Dear Mr Mulholland

I’m not wasting time on the tantrums of Toby Helm and Chris Cook over anonymous Twitter accounts. Am I supposed to take seriously anonymous accusations about anonymous Twitter accounts ridiculing journalists with too much time on their hands?

I suggest that your advice to both of them is: take a Twitter detox because it’s melting your brains, focus on what’s important, stop behaving like 8 year olds, and Mr Helm ought to reflect on the bizarreness of twittering foul-mouthed abuse at people while complaining about being abused on Twitter. What would David Astor make of that?

Please feel free to publish this response in any forum you wish including if you intend to run any ‘story’. I will not waste another minute on such nonsense and neither should you.

Best wishes

Dominic

From: John Mulholland
Sent: 01 February 2013 14:33
To: CUMMINGS, Dominic

Subject:

Dear Dominic,

Many thanks for your speedy response. I note however that you are not denying contributing to @educationews. I would like to give you that opportunity now, again. On one other specific point, can you confirm, or deny, that a senior Conservative Party official – in late summer 2011 – voiced concerns directly to you about the tone of the contributions you were making to @educationews.

Many thanks,

John Mulholland

From: CUMMINGS, Dominic
Sent: 01 February 2013 15:12
To: ‘John Mulholland’

Subject: RE:

Dear Mr Mulholland

Have you lost the plot? Now you’re accusing me of being something called @educationnews. Have you even looked at that twitter account? I did just now for a laugh. It has tweeted twice and has 5 followers. What next? What else are you going to invite me to ‘deny’? Am I secretly doing Rupert Murdoch’s twittering while working for Mossad on the side? I strongly advise you to take the advice I gave before or you will embarrass a famous institution even more. This really is my last word on this puerile rubbish.

D

From: John Mulholland
Sent: 01 February 2013 15:28
To: CUMMINGS, Dominic

Subject: Re:

Dominic,

Many apologies, and thanks again for your reply.

My previous email should have referred to @toryeducation – as it did in my first email. I suspect you know full well the feed we are referring to – it also has the line ‘Tory education news’ as part of its Twitter account. Shall we leave aside your references to Mossad and Rupert Murdoch for now and return to the matter at hand?

I noted how your first email did not deny contributing to @educationews. I would like to give you that opportunity again.

And on the other specific point, can you confirm, or deny, that a senior Conservative Party official – in late summer 2011 – voiced concerns directly to you about the tone of the contributions you were making to @educationews.

They seem to me relatively simple questions to answer. We note that the feed in question – hardly an ‘anonymous’ Twitter feed – is listed as one of just four Twitter members by the Conservative HQ Twitter account.

Many thanks

John Mulholland

From: CUMMINGS, Dominic
Sent: 01 February 2013 16.10
To: ‘John Mulholland’

Dear Mr Mulholland.

You write:

‘Shall we leave aside your references to Mossad and Rupert Murdoch for now and return to the matter at hand? I noted how your first email did not deny contributing to @educationews. I would like to give you that opportunity again.’

You really MUST look at that account, you’ve now repeated your bizarre accusation! Then confiscate Toby’s phone, send Chris Cook a ‘How to boost your self-­esteem’ book, and stop sending such emails.

Best wishes, and over and out

D

Ps. Once you’ve chillaxed, I would be happy to chat some time about education policy.

Trafalgar Square Packed for Conspiracy Rally Featuring David Icke and Katie Hopkins

From the Independent:

Thousands of anti-lockdown and anti-vaccine protesters gathered in central London for a “Worldwide rally for freedom” – five days after restrictions were lifted in England.

Conspiracy theorists David Icke, Gillian McKeith and Piers Corbyn, the brother of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, were among the speakers at the demonstration in Trafalgar Square.

The event also attracted far-right commentator Katie Hopkins…

…Kate Shemirani, who was struck off by the Nursing and Midwifery Council last month for spreading Covid misinformation, said: “Get their names. Email them to me. With a group of lawyers, we are collecting all that. At the Nuremburg Trials the doctors and nurses stood trial and they hung. If you are a doctor or a nurse, now is the time to get off that bus… and stand with us the people.”

London major Sadiq Khan described her comments as “utterly appalling”. He tweeted: “I have raised it directly with the Met Police. Our NHS staff are the heroes of this pandemic and Londoners from across this city roundly reject this hate.”

Videos of the event were shared on Twitter; in particular, there was a useful thread by the BBC’s Shayan Sardarizadeh, who also noted the involvement of fringe political candidate David Kurten and the anti-5G campaigner Mark Steele. Steele also took part in last week’s protest, during which he chanted “paedo scum” at the Houses of Parliament in support of a contingent of Satanic Ritual Abuse protestors led by Jeanette Archer. Shemirani’s speech was captured by Marc Lister, and scenes of the crowd show that Trafalgar Square was packed to capacity.

The Independent article also refers to the event as being part of a “World Wide Rally for Freedom” taking place in several locations around the world; the fact-checking site Logically has delved into this here, reporting that the rallies “were entirely astroturfed and coordinated by a small group from Kassel in Germany” called Freie Bürger Kassel (Free Citizens of Kassel).

With these kind of events it is also worth noting who was not there. In particular, the vocal anti-lockdown activist Laurence Fox (who also scoffs at the vaccine, despite denying that he is anti-vax), who was present at last week’s protest, declined to be seen sharing a stage with the likes of David Icke and Katie Hopkins; perhaps it would have embarrassed his donor/patron Jeremy Hosking or undermined the continuing free publicity he gets from sympathetic media.

However, Fox took to Twitter to convey a general impression of support without committing himself to specific claims: he RTed a Tweet from a third party expressing “solidarity” with the protestors, and then shared a video via Paul Joseph Watson of a protestor being arrested, which he described as “tyranny” despite the lack of any context, and the man’s ludicrous theatrics of shouting “I’m going to die” as he was pinned to the ground and then screaming as he was handcuffed. He also denounced Dan Hodges for referring to “incitement to murder” – this was an obvious reference to Shemirani’s “Nuremburg Trials” comment, but Fox claimed that it was an unfair mischaracterisation of lockdown sceptics and opponents of “medical apartheid”.

Anti-Vax Protest in London Includes “VIP Paedophile” Conspiracy Rhetoric

From the London Evening Standard:

Police have made a string of arrests as anti-lockdown and anti-vaccination protesters caused mayhem outside the Houses of Parliament on Monday.

…Anti-vaccination protesters chanted “shame on police” and “arrest Boris Johnson” as the demonstration moved from Parliament Square to spread onto the road and up to the gates of the Palace of Westminster.

…Nigel Farage was forced to cut short a segment on the protests during his first flagship show on GB News.

A woman shouted “Nazi paedo protector w****rs” at the camera as reporter Tom Harwood was trying to describe the violent scenes to Mr Farage back in the studio.

The clip can be viewed here; the woman also called him a “Nazi cunt”, and there was also some similar abuse from a man off camera who can be seen here. Watching the segment, I was put in mind both of a June 2019 London protest, where James Goddard denounced “Satanic paedophiles” in No. 10 at a “Free Tommy Rally”, and an incident opposite Downing Street in June 2015 where an activist named Bill Maloney told a crowd that “your Prime Minister is protecting 76 MPs that are being investigated”. The abuse aimed at Harwood in part reflects the importation of American Pizzagate and QAnon conspiracy rhetoric, although it has also been fostered by the lasting impact of a slew of credulous newspaper articles accusing British public figures that only ran dry when Carl Beech was exposed as a hoaxer.

In fact, there was an entire “Satanic Ritual Abuse” contingent at the protest – this was same group that had also protested last month, led by Jeanette Archer. Hoaxtead has the details; they met at the London Eye south of the river before progressing over Westminster Bridge to Parliament Square, where they were greeted by the anti-5G activists Mark Steele and Graham Steele (both men shown acting aggressively towards police in a video clip here). Archer’s banner has been amended; when it was debuted last month it proclaimed opposition to “Satnic Ritual Abuse”. According to Sardarizadeh, Archer claimed that there are “160 MPs on the padeophile sex offenders register” who drink children’s blood, which is an advance on Maloney’s 76.

The main crowd was addressed by various speakers – on Twitter, the BBC’s Shayan Sardarizadeh noted “retired police officer Mark Sexton”, who advised the mob that “if all Covid restrictions are not lifted and vaccinations are not ceased, citizens have a right to arrest ministers and MPs by force and set up common law courts”, as well as “former nurse and anti-vaccine activist Kate Shemirani”, who claimed “Covid vaccines are ‘bioweapons’ and ‘surveilance systems’ with an ‘electrical charge’ that can transmit and receive signals from 5G towers. She adds people who have been vaccinated will likely die ‘within two years’.” The Times notes the presence of Piers Corbyn and of “actor turned aspiring politician and anti-lockdown campaigner” Laurence Fox.

Meanwhile, some lesser-known figures have been logged on Twitter by Mark Lister: he observed “Tommy Robinson Flying Monkey’s Gavin Malone, Mark and Tyrant Finder”, and “Ginger Toni with TR security Mark”, which he says “shows the definite Tommy Robinson influence on this movement”. Disgraced former town councillor William Coleshill was apparently among those arrested. Lister also draws attention to the presence of a white pendragon flag at the protest (perhaps generic or maybe indicating a group of that name), as well as at least one protestor wearing a yellow star in appropriation of Holocaust iconography. Two yellow stars were also included on a large banner that appears on a video taken by journalists with JOE.

Ahead of the protest, Archer promised that “we’re going to fight back in a way that will be different than we’ve ever done before” and that the day “will go down in history, what we’re gonna do”, although despite the hype it seems to have been more of the same as last month. Archer (like Maloney, who has disappeared from view since 2015) has been heavily promoted by self-described “police whistleblower” Jon Wedger, who  given his ubiquity was conspicuous by his absence.

Satanic Ritual Abuse Accuser Leads Group at London Protests

From BBC News, yesterday:

Thousands of demonstrators are marching through London in a day of protests.

Anti-lockdown and climate change demonstrations are under way across Westminster, Lambeth and Southwark alongside some smaller protests.

…Whether it was austerity or Palestine, lockdown or the NHS, campaigners of all ages and backgrounds wanted to make their voices heard today.

…It didn’t matter your cause, all groups mixed and chanted alongside each other.

…The protest was prompted by the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which proposes to give police in England and Wales more power to impose conditions on non-violent protests, including those that are deemed too noisy or a nuisance.

Although not mentioned by the BBC, the protestors included a contingent of Satanic Ritual Abuse activists, led by Jeanette Archer and a large banner declaring “Exposing Satnic [sic] Ritual Abuse”, which was carried along the Mall down towards Buckingham Palace. A video upload shows Archer addressing a cheering crowd of a hundred or so in Hyde Park as she read off a litany of generic horrors that she claimed to have experienced during childhood, including witnessing the murder of children, women being forcibly impregnated and having the resulting babies cut out of them (even though that would mean the death of the supposed “breeders”), cannibalism and so on. The banner was then carried to places that Archer had previously said need “exposing”, such as the Supreme Court in Westminster.

More specifically, Archer also claimed to have been abused by Edward Heath, Greville Janner and Jimmy Savile, and that uniformed police officers would rape her and transport her to Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle. I discussed some of Archer’s story previously here.

Archer also paid tribute to Wilfred Wong, a Satanic Ritual Abuse activist who is due to stand trial on charges of child abduction during the week ahead, and one of her assistants read out a letter from him; out of an abundance of caution I won’t go into details while the matter is sub judice.

A leaflet produced by Archer ahead of the protest can be seen here; James Hind, who observed the event, has an account here. In his assessment:

Despite the march feeling bizarre and incompetent, I felt Archer had achieved a result today by coming out of the event with more followers and a stronger voice amongst the QAnon community. I was doubtful that Archer had made any impact on the decision-makers in the media or politics, having painted them as child-murdering Satanists; but, making change at the top was never the goal of Archer, it was winning over the QAnon market, and she achieved that. What was strange and sinister was the reluctance of the police to intervene or challenge Archer and her marchers, who had free reign to go, say and do what they liked in their march in London today.

For further commentary see also Spin vs Truth here.

The subliterate “Satnic” banner was also notable for its logo branding of a half-sun giving off rays above the letters “SOS” (Save Our Children). The same logo was used on the same day at protests in Australia and New Zealand. Archer made a video with her Australasian allies a few days before the march; the discussion included the need for child “rescues”.

A Note on the Peter Jukes Libellers

A post from Peter Jukes on the Crowd Justice website:

Life-Changing Libel About Me, Spread by Right Wing Activists
by Peter Jukes

About me: I’m an author and dramatist who, in the last ten years, has dedicated myself to helping to fund accurate, accountable journalism first through the Byline.com crowdfunding site and the Byline Festival, and now the successful investigative newspaper and news site Byline Times

Summary On the weekend of 19 June this year I was hideously libeled by former UKIP leadership campaign manager Jay Beecher on the site Politicalite, edited by Jordan James (Jordan Kendall).

Both had previously threatened Byline Times months before. The entirely fake allegation of child sexual abuse was published without the comments I had sent them,. A tweet with even worse commentary (“just the tip of the iceberg” was spread by Blue Tick account James Melville (with over Twitter 180,000 follower) and his editor at Country Squire Magazine, James Bembridge. Both also have a history of derogatory comments about me.

The Legal Principles. I have instructed specialist defamation solicitors at Bindmans LLP. I understand this is a slam dunk case of serious harm (what could be more distressing and damaging than an allegation of child sexual abuse?), but bringing the sources of this malicious libel to book is an expensive process, and there is no security that I could recover my own legal costs if it goes all the way to court and an inevitable victory.

I previously wrote about Byline here and here, and I have met Peter a few times. He is perhaps best known to the general public for his efforts with Alastair Morgan to highlight the police corruption that stymied police investigations into the 1987 murder of Alastair’s brother Daniel Morgan.

Beecher’s article claims that a man named “Adam” alleges that Peter sexually assaulted him in the 1980s when he was 12, apparently in Edinburgh. On Twitter, Beecher has stated that he is unconcerned as to whether the claim is true or not, but that he is is entitled to publish the allegation. He has expressed confidence that this amounts to a defence in law. There is nothing in the Politicalite article to indicate that Beecher made any enquiries as to “Adam’s” credibility or the plausibility of the allegation, and Peter has expressed scepticism that he even exists. Politicalite has run various posts attacking Byline for political reasons.

The Politicalite post was amplified on Twitter by an anonymous troll account, and a Tweet from this account was in turn promoted by Melville and Bembridge, neither of whom have any apparent link with Beecher. Unlike Beecher, they have both apologised for their actions, although in ways that are inadequate and possibly even vexatious. First, Melville:

Yesterday, I retweeted a serious allegation against Peter Jukes, made in a news article online, that was damaging to his reputation. I apologise unreservedly and am sorry for any harm this has done and distress caused. @peterjukes [1]

It’s important to act respectfully and with care on social media. Yesterday I didn’t do that. I let myself down. I am ashamed that I fell into this trap I often warn others about. So, a note to self and from me to you, be careful, be respectful and be mindful. Always. [2]

This does not amount to a repudiation of the post, and describing it as “a news article online” obscures the nature of Politicalite as a vicious fringe-right attack site. His subsequent victim narrative, in which he “fell into this trap”, and pontifications on the need to “be mindful” come across as self-serving.

Bembridge, meanwhile, has a mitigation defence:

Last night I retweeted a tweet which I apologise for retweeting related to @peterjukes. Having now read the tweet and the article it linked to, I realise that I should not have unthinkingly just retweeted the tweet. My reaction was premature. Apologies, Peter.

But Bembridge did not just “retweet a tweet” – he embedded the Tweet into a Tweet of his own, adding the suggestion that it undermined Peter’s standing to call him a “cheap polemicist”. It is very difficult to believe that he did not read the Tweet’s content, in which the allegation was laid out explicitly. And as with Melville, this again does not amount to a repudiation of the story, and the word “premature” implies he believes that it may yet be substantiated in some way.

The former England rugby player Brian Moore, who is also a qualified lawyer, had some advice:

To @TheBembridge – I’ve seen your so-called apology to Peter Jukes and as a former lawyer who did defamation work I just wanted to tell you it won’t be sufficient to defend a libel claim.

Peter noticed that Bembridge had also deleted older Tweets in which he had criticised or mocked him. Bembridge perhaps did this because a history of prior hostility might be evidence of motive if the matter comes to court; if so, though, his efforts here have been undermined by a close associate who has waded in with abusive trolling of Peter and of Brian Moore (the latter dismissed as a “shite lawyer”).

It is worth noting that the site where Bembridge is “Deputy Editor” was featured in the Guardian in late 2019 in relation to the “Hijacked Labour” smear chart that was published in the Sun ahead of the last general election. As explained by Daniel Trilling:

The map linked to by the Sun closely resembles an earlier graphic that first appeared online in August, under the name the Traitor’s Chart. The earliest mention of it that I can find is on an obscure website called Country Squire Magazine, which said it had received a press release about the map. That article, since deleted, had a publication date of 21 August. The website’s only other significant intervention to date has been a pro-Brexit polemic that described Ireland as a “land of puppy farms, rain-soaked holidays, dingy bars, drugs mule celebs, verbal diarrhoea and squeaky fiddles”, also now deleted.

There is no evidence that anyone else received the “press release”, and it should be noted that the Traitors’ Chart and Country Squire Magazine were both built using the same WordPress theme (appropriately called Canard). The deletion of the article and creation of the new “Hijacked Labour” version of the graphic occurred just a few days before the Sun article appeared. The Sun item itself was pulled after just a short time online, and its author, Tom Newton Dunn, has been derided ever since over his refusal to provide any explanation.

UFO Author Police and Crime Commissioner Appoints Ted Heath Investigator as Adviser

From The Times:

The former chief constable who led the inquiry into alleged abuse by Sir Edward Heath and who later resigned over allegations of serious misconduct is being paid to advise an elected police and crime commissioner.

Mike Veale, who headed forces in Wiltshire and Cleveland, has been given a contract with Rupert Matthews, who runs the Leicestershire force.

…He was appointed by Matthews, a former MEP, on the recommendation of Andrew Bridgen, the Conservative MP for North West Leicestershire. Bridgen regularly publicly defended Veale during the inquiry into Heath.

As well as being a former MEP, Matthews is the author of works such as UFOs: A History of Alien Activity from Sightings to Abductions to Global Threat and Roswell: Uncovering the Secrets of Area 51 and the Fatal UFO Crash.

As chief constable of Wiltshire Police, Veale infamously squandered £1.4 million in the futile pursuit of child sex abuse allegations against Heath, who had died a decade beforehand. Dramatic leaks to the Mail on Sunday‘s political correspondent Simon Walters claimed that Veale was “120 per cent convinced” that Heath was guilty, although the final report turned out to be a damp squib. Veale denied leaking to the media, although as soon as the report was out he gave interviews to Walters and also to Mark Watts, a journalist heavily invested in the claims of Carl Beech.

A bizarre coda was that Veale was soon afterwards found to have lied about the circumstances in which his work mobile phone had been destroyed, although he was cleared of an anonymous allegation that “he had collaborated with a Conservative MP to leak the details and covered his tracks by destroying his phone”. The IOPC accepted Veale’s account that he had accidentally destroyed the phone in a moment of annoyance while playing golf, and had lied to avoid “media attention”. By coincidence, the phone had come to grief a day after the Mail on Sunday had run a story with the headline “Police: If Ted Heath was alive today we’d quiz him under caution on child abuse claims” – a sensationalisation of routine police procedure with the intention of implying “no smoke without fire”.

Veale failed upwards by then becoming chief constable of Cleveland Police, but as noted by The Times he “later resigned over allegations of serious misconduct”. According to an update at the end of the article, the IOPC has passed a report to Cleveland’s PCC, but says it is “not in a position” to share its findings. Veale’s supporters within the conspiracy theory milieu claim that the Cleveland allegations are the revenge of the establishment; certainly, it’s possible that Veale was ousted improperly, but if so then the context is more likely to be local corruption (Veale was the third Chief Constable of Cleveland Police since Sean Price was dismissed for misconduct in 2012).

It’s not quite clear why Andrew Bridgen, who has no connection with Wiltshire, was such an enthusiast for the Heath investigation – however, he has also written in support of old allegations against Greville Janner in Leicestershire, and it may be that he saw the Heath case as being the some kind of thing. His writings on Janner in turn form part of his campaign against Keith Vaz, who has been accused of having “protected” Janner.

The regular rent-a-quote MP also has links with the conspiracy milieu: earlier this year he was criticised after giving an interview to none other than Anna Brees, and her former associate Jon Wedger previously claimed in 2018 that Bridgen had “made contact” with him.

Jon Wedger Puffed in New MailOnline Article

From journalist James Fielding at MailOnline:

A former Kray henchman and Britain’s one-time most wanted armed robber have joined forces with an ex-detective to coax youngsters away from crime.

Chris Lambrianou, one of Ronnie and Reggie Kray’s most feared gang members, has teamed up with Terry Ellis, who spent nearly nine years in jail after a spate of multi-million pound heists, and retired Metropolitan Police officer Jon Wedger.

This is Fielding’s second article about Lambrianou for MailOnline, following a 2018 piece about how Lambrianou had found Jesus while in prison. That earlier article also referred to Wedger, mentioning that Lambrianou had “joined forces with former Metropolitan Police detective John Wedger [sic] to organise a sponsored canal walk from London to Manchester to raise funds” for a different charity. Both articles are liberally decorated with file photos of the elderly Lambrianou socialising with ancient London gangsters at mob-related funerals, even though he has renounced his former activities and criticised the mythologising of the Kray twins.

It seems likely that Fielding’s line to Lambrianou came through Wedger – Fielding previously wrote about Wedger for the Daily Express, in the wake of several articles promoting the conspiracy theorist Bill Maloney, a close associate of Wedger who seems to have disappeared from public view. Maloney’s contacts led to stories by Fielding with headlines such as “Female MP abused boy in care” – this was during the middle of the last decade, when just about any story alleging “VIP abuse” could make it into tabloid newspapers on the coattails of the Carl Beech circus.

Which brings us back to Wedger: MailOnline readers are not informed by Fielding that Wedger is a prominent figure within the UK conspiracy theory milieu, with a particular focus on child sex abuse and Satanic Ritual Abuse, – associates include the likes of Jeanette Archer and, previously, Anna Brees. Wedger runs a “Jon Wedger Foundation” that sells merchandise promoting his image (1), and in one of his videos he has scoffed at the idea that he should be financially accountable, arguing that it up to anyone who thinks funds are being misused to prove their case rather than for him to be transparent. Louise Dickens (granddaughter of the late Geoffrey Dickens) at one point was working with Wedger but she has now split from him, raising numerous concerns.

Fielding’s new article has further details about the new project:

The three of them help run Changing Lives, a charity which strives to divert young people away from crime by mentoring them and working with them to find work.

So far the project has helped a number of former criminals, including teenagers involved with knife gangs, a hardened bank robber and prolific prostitute, to go straight.

Based at the Pillar of Fire Ministries in Dagenham, Essex, the charity is a stone’s throw from the East End manor that Lambrianou helped the Krays run with an iron fist.

The “prolific prostitute” is described as someone who had been trafficked from Nigeria, and given this context the description of her as a “criminal” rather than a victim is troubling framing, although she is quoted as being grateful for their help. Pillar of Fire Ministries is a Black-majority church, led by Pastor Patrick Nnadi; Lambrianou previously had an association with the now-disbanded Jesus Army.

Terry Ellis was profiled by the Guardian in 2018. He was interviewed by Wedger for a podcast back in September – Ellis described him on Twitter as “the ex-police man who exposed police corruption and the cover up of child abuse”, which is also Wedger’s self-description.

Footnote

1. Here’s an image of James Zikic sporting an “I stand with Jon Wedger” t-shirt at Speakers’ Corner in London. Zikic provides security services to high-profile conspiracy theory promoters, including David Icke.

A Note on the Media and the Wuhan “Lab-Origin” Theory

From Glenn Kessler at the Washington Post:

The source of the coronavirus that has left more than 3 million people dead around the world remains a mystery. But in recent months the idea that it emerged from the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) — once dismissed as a ridiculous conspiracy theory — has gained new credence.

…a lack of transparency by China and renewed attention to the activities of the Wuhan lab have led some scientists to say they were too quick to discount a possible link at first.

Kessler’s article has been received with glee by strong proponents of the “lab-origin” theory of Covid-19, with Fox News reacting with an article headlined “Ted Cruz mocks Washington Post as ‘clowns’ after fact-check declares Wuhan lab leak theory ‘suddenly’ credible”.

More generally, a Substack post by Michael Tracey headlined “As New Evidence Emerges For COVID “Lab-Leak” Theory, Journalists Who Screamed “Conspiracy” Humiliate Themselves” is proving popular, although Kessler’s WaPo colleague Aaron Blake has a more measured perspective:

It has become evident that some corners of the mainstream media overcorrected when it came to one particular theory from Trump and his allies: that the coronavirus emanated from a laboratory in Wuhan, China, rather than naturally.

It’s also true that many criticisms of the coverage are overwrought and that Trump’s and his allies’ claims invited and deserved skepticism.

Blake notes that the Trump administration “leaned into” the lab-leak theory “hard” while declining to provide evidence.

He could have gone further: public discussion was positively corrupted by bad actors such as Steve Bannon, who produced an alleged whistleblower who claimed that the chimeric nature of the coronavirus was self-evident, but was being covered up by scientists in cahoots with China (she was heavily promoted on Fox via Tucker Carlson). In the UK, articles sensationally promoting – rather than fairly evaluating – specific lab-origin claims were prominent in the Mail on Sunday (which took credit for Trump being asked about the subject at a press conference) and the Daily Telegraph, which wheeled out  former head of MI6 Richard Dearlove to give the subject the aura and authority of “intelligence”, even though he has no more knowledge of the subject than the rest of us (Dearlove recently went on to provide similar commentary to LBC).

Meanwhile, scientific voices who argue for continuing scepticism risk being overlooked. On Twitter, a thread by Nsikan Akpan (former science editor at National Geographic) argues that there is evidence against the “lab-origins” theory and for the “natural origins” theory; his interpretation is backed by a data scientist with a biology background here and expanded on here.

UPDATE: See also “The Lab Leak Theory Doesn’t Hold Up” by Justin Ling for Foreign Policy.

Exposed by Hoaxtead: High-Profile Satanic Ritual Abuse Accuser’s Story Based on Impossible Dates

From Hoaxtead:

Jeanette Archer… has run into the problem which ultimately faces just about anyone who attempts to construct elaborate stories of Satanic ritual abuse out of thin air: sooner or later, the details will come back to bite you.

In this case, the most relevant detail is that her paternal grandfather, whom she claims headed a Satanic cult and abused her from an early age, died in 1955, twelve years before she was born. The blog author dispenses with the possibility that Archer was instead referring to a step-grandfather, since “her mother didn’t remarry until Jeanette was 13”. This was when she acquired the “Archer” surname, meaning that her paternal family history was obscured.

Archer has achieved some prominence as a supposed “Satanic Ritual Abuse survivor” – supporters have included Jon Wedger, Shaun Attwood and Louise Dickens (Dickens has since fallen out with her), and last year she hitched her awful disclosures to a Covid conspiracy protest in Hammersmith, where she was applauded by Piers Corbyn. More recently, she was filmed ranting through a megaphone outside Downing Street about Boris Johnson murdering children and drinking their blood for the adrenochrome. This was again at a Covid conspiracy protest, and she appeared to enjoy the support of the crowd. (1)

It should be noted that Archer has not confined her claims to the conspiracy milieu – back in 2012 she made a complaint to Surrey Police, who then wasted some time dealing with her allegations. As noted by Hoaxtead, they apparently determined that her grandfather had never had a driving licence, but it seems they overlooked her impossible dates.

In the Hoaxtead comments, criminologist Richard Hoskins has some further details (link added):

As for Jeanette, Surrey police asked me to investigate a massive historic SRA claim about 10 years ago. I did all my due diligence but when I discovered that the allegator (new word which I rather like) was able to find all her blocked memories from, wait for it, Michelle Remembers my blood ran cold. I phoned the Chief Super and told him that by all means he could go and dig up the wells to find the buried baby bodies etc. but that he was almost certainly wasting precious police time. I told them she was a fake. To give them their due, they paid attention. Unlike dear old Mike Veale and Wiltshire police.

 

Footnote

1. In an earlier postHoaxtead also notes that Archer was accompanied at the protest by a large bearded bodyguard, identified as one James Zikic. As described by Hoaxtead, Zikic is a former mixed martial arts fighter who has also provided security to Wedger and to David Icke, as well as to the Turkish evangelist Hatun Tash. Apparently he used to work with Usman Raja, a cage-fighting coach who also runs a de-radicalisation programme; Raja responded to the Hoaxtead post by saying he was “genuinely sad to see him go so far astray”.

Hoaxtead also draws attention to other members of Jeanette Archer’s security detail: Dan Young, “who seems fascinated with guns and pseudo-military paraphernalia”, and self-described “occult researcher” Jay Fernandez, shown “clad in surveillance LARPing gear, and toting what looks like a firearm”.

A Note on Douglas Murray’s Attack on Byline Times

Commentator and author Douglas Murray takes aim at Byline Times on Twitter:

When the ‘executive editor’ of conspiracy theory website ‘Byline Times’ lied about me he had to pay thousands of pounds in costs and compensation + publish an apology. I hope everybody else defamed by his garbage site takes similar action. [1]

Conspiracy-theory website ‘Byline Times’ just quietly amended another article. One of their ‘journalists’ manipulated quotes from a former State Department official to pretend he’d said something he hadn’t. They then built a story from this. Who funds such disinformation? [2]

Murray’s ire was prompted by an article by Nafeez Ahmed criticising the UK government’s appointment of Robin Simcox as Lead Commissioner on Countering Extremism. Ahmed notes that Simcox has a number of controversial associations, including having spoken at the Center for Immigration Studies and while at the Heritage Center having promoted “Dr Lorenzo Vidino”, described as a “Great Replacement” proponent “whom Simcox cites to support the idea that American Muslim civil society groups are fronts for the Muslim Brotherhood”. The rhetoric is a bit over-heated for my taste, with the terms “far-right” and “hate group” scattered throughout, but Murray – whose association with Simcox goes back to the Centre for Social Cohesion more than ten years ago – and other critics (1) fail to demonstrate substantive flaws.

Thus Murray’s Tweets instead promote a narrative that appears calculated to discredit Byline more generally. However, his unwillingness to go into detail is telling.

As regards his first Tweet, this relates to a Tweet by Byline‘s editor, Peter Jukes (who I have met a few times). His apology appeared in 2019:

On 29 April 2019 I tweeted a copy of a Byline article about the rise of violence in the far right. The accompanying tweet mentioned Douglas Murray and may have suggested that he was trying to foment violence. That is not my view and not what I intended to say [1]

I would like to apologise to Mr Murray for my careless tweet and the distress it caused him [2]

In response to Murray dredging the incident up, Peter now adds:

Two years ago, in a poorly worded late night tweet I meant to to say Murray’s work was used by the far right.

Further:

Nobody had complained for over a month yet the tweet had been strangely boosted. Legal complaint was by letter not email. Given the strange circumstances, I decided to pay the legal fees and not let it drag down the other 300 writers on Byline Times, who’d nothing to do with it

This falls somewhat short of the implication of Murray’s first Tweet, which is that Byline had published an article about him containing untrue factual claims rather than that Peter in a personal capacity had published a Tweet that had appeared to have inferred a malign motive unfairly. The matter was settled out of court by Peter rather than by Byline after Murray brought the libel lawyer Mark Lewis into it. It’s not clear how the Tweet came to Murray’s attention in the first place, especially after a gap, but it may be that someone with a grudge against Peter tipped him off.

The second Murray Tweet, meanwhile, refers to corrections that appear on two of Ahmed’s articles (the main one and a follow-up) relating to Peter Mandaville:

This article was amended on 13/04/21 to correctly portray former U.S. State Department official Peter Mandaville’s position. He has not directly commented or expressed any view on the appointment of Robin Simcox but rather offered an expert comment on the nature of anti-Muslim Brotherhood activism in the United States and the potential effects of its export to the United Kingdom.

A published correction in my view is not consistent with Murray’s phrase “quietly amended”, which implies an attempt to withdraw a claim without anyone noticing, and the date shows that it was published several days before Murray said it had “just” happened. Further, neither story is “built” from a view attributed to Mandaville.

Footnote

1. Ahmed’s main Byline article was described as an “Islamist smear campaign” by Stephen Pollard, editor of the Jewish Chronicle, who prevailed upon the historian Simon Schama to a delete a Tweet promoting it. However, Schama also clarified to Ahmed that “I… have neither said, nor for a minute think, you’re an Islamist”.