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Some Notes on Roy Moore’s Campaign

Sarah Palin uses Twitter to give her thoughts on Doug Jones’s apparent narrow victory in Alabama:

[1] Humbling night for GOP. Like him or not, Axelrod is right with his observation in Alabama: Jones focused on AL, didn’t get caught up in national winds or drama. (1/2)

[2] All politics is local – and personal – voters want and deserve candidates laser-focused on We the People on the local level! Lesson learned. – SP

Palin travelled to Alabama in September to campaign for Moore to win the nomination, where she spoke alongside Sebastian Gorka. Gorka is a less reflective mood, dismissing Jeff Flake’s comment that “decency wins” with the rejoinder that “Actually INFANTICIDE won”. Presumably this is an overheated and exaggerated reference to Jones’s views on abortion – but if this issue was more important than anything else, why then did he campaign against Trump’s initial preference Luther Strange, a solid anti-choice Republican who would almost certainly have won the election? Clearly, Gorka gambled on Moore due to wider ideological priorities – and lost (although Moore has not yet conceded, apparently).

Jones was also elected despite the exhortations of high-profile supporters. Restore Our Godly Heritage PAC organised a press conference in the wake of the sex allegations: Right Wing Watch noted that

Speakers included anti-abortion extremists like Flip Benham and Operation Save America‘s Rusty Thomas, long-time Religious Right fringe figures and like Alan Keyes and Gordon Klingenschmitt, right-wing internet personalities like Activist Mommy, local pastors, and even Janet Porter’s mom… Also speaking was Steve Hotze, a Texas activist who has been a major funder of Moore’s campaign, who Porter said had helped to organize the event.

One standout—both for being a non-Christian and for the intense ugliness of his anti-gay rhetoric—was Rabbi Noson Leiter, who denounced the “abomination” of marriage equality and “homosexualist gay terrorism and blackmail” and praised Moore for taking on “immoral Bible-hating millionaires” including “anti-god Republicans like McCain and Romney.” He said Noah’s flood “was triggered by societal recognition of same-gender marriage—so-called marriage.”

Moore also enjoyed the support of Jerry Falwell Jnr and Franklin Graham, as noted by The Hill. The two men had slightly different approaches: while Falwell stated that “I believe the judge is telling the truth” when it came to the sexual allegations against him, Graham was slightly more vague, talking in general terms about the “hypocrisy” of Moore critics and stating “I don’t know” in relation to the women’s accounts. Graham also said that he was “praying” for Moore – prayer here being public political theatre rather than private piety.

However, some prominent evangelical women took a different view: to its credit, CBN ran a fair piece under the headline “Evangelical Women Speak Out Against Roy Moore”, which noted comments from Beth Moore and Kay Warren, and drew attention to a Washington Post op-ed by Nancy French.

Moore’s campaign also introduced the nation and the world to several figures who spoke in the media on Moore’s behalf, but not necessarily to his advantage. Janet Porter, a veteran Christian Right activist from Ohio (previously blogged here) caused some offence by referring to an interviewer’s pregnancy in relation to Jones’s views on abortion (which she exaggerated) (1), while “evangelist and attorney” Trenton Garmon ineptly attempted to lighten the mood during an interview with Don Lemon by making merry over Lemon’s surname.

This, however, was just Garmon’s warm up, and a couple of days later he offered a defence of Moore’s alleged past dating practices which was widely described as “bizarre”. As Business Insider reported:

In an interview on MSNBC’s “Velshi and Ruhle”… host Stephanie Ruhle asked Garmon why Moore would need permission if the women he dated were not underage.

“Culturally speaking, I would say there’s differences,” Garmon said. “I looked up Ali’s background, there — wow, that’s awesome that you have got such a diverse background. It’s really cool to read through that.”

Ali Velshi is from Canada, although his family heritage is Asian-Kenyan.

Then, on the eve of the election, we were introduced to another Moore spokesperson, this time a former county commissioner named Ted Crockett. In a much-remarked interview with Jake Tapper, Crockett struggled to explain Moore’s views on homosexuality (specifically, what legal punishment Moore envisions), and he insisted that United States law means that only Christians who swear on the Bible can hold public office. When corrected on this point, Crockett was silent and literally slack-jawed for several seconds until Tapper did him a favour by wrapping things up. Garmon and Crockett’s amateurish incompetence was an extraordinary spectacle – was this really be best talent Moore had at his disposal? And if so, what does that say about Alabama more generally?

The campaign was not just an all-American affair, though: in September, none other than Nigel Farage took part in an event alongside Steve Bannon and Phil Robertson. Taking his lead from Breitbart (which is currently sourly noting a “Uniparty Victory” in Alabama), Moore described Farage on Twitter as “Brexit leader”

Footnote

(1) Porter was also criticised by Nancy French, who recalled an encounter from a decade ago. Given the ephemeral nature of Twitter, I’ll quote her thread in full:

Janet Porter, Roy Moore’s spokesperson, has been in the news for being – well – horrible. But I just realized I once ran into her… and remember it 10 years later. /1

The year was 2007. We walked into the @FRCAction’s so-called ‘Values Voter’ conference as ‘Evangelicals for Mitt,’ a grassroots organization that discussed the faith issue as it pertained to @MittRomney. /2 We wanted conservatives to rally around Mitt – even though our religions didn’t precisely line up – because he represented conservative values well (and other reasons). /3 The mostly evangelical crowd was frosty to us. Baptist preacher @GovMikeHuckabee slyly mocked Romney in his speech, ‘it’s important the language of Zion is a mother tongue [of the next GOP nominee], and not a recently acquired second language.’ /4 The crowd went wild. I went in expecting the sweet Christian ladies at church. But the Values Voters was full of mean, vitriolic people. Especially since we were advocating for a Mormon. /5

Huckabee advocates handed out fliers: ‘Do Not Compromise Your Values, with ‘your’ crossed out and replaced by ‘God’s.’ See, they had ‘deeply held religious beliefs’ (that just a few years later would have them shilling for a thrice married playboy @realDonaldTrump.) /6 Which brings me to the worst thing that happened at the VV conference. Romney won the straw poll (our little grassroots group had out-organized the other candidates’ teams) and the attendees were furious. /7 One lady – a Huckabee supporter, natch – stopped me on an elevator. ‘You should really support a Christian candidate.’ I began my normal speech about faith’s proper role in politics… /8 She cut me off by berating me, ending it with ‘Well, I can tell you just don’t love America.’ My husband @DavidAFrench was just days away from being deployed to Iraq, and I was very very emotional about him leaving me and our two children. /9 I was so angry I froze as she chastised me. ‘But my husband’s going to Iraq’ I said.

Unimpressed, this venomous lady kept yelling at me as she got back into the elevator and the doors closed. I could hear her yelling as the doors closed. /10 You’ve probably guessed the unhinged-lady-on-the-elevator-who-yelled-at-a-soldier’s-wife-for-not-loving-America was Janet Porter. /11 Stands to reason. In the twisted worldview of modern Values Voters – you can’t vote for a Mormon, but you can shill for a credibly accused pedophile. /12

I didn’t have the voice or emotional strength to stand up to that woman on that day, but I’ll say it loudly now: God’s Values include excusing pedophilia and overlooking sexual sin, @GovMikeHuckabee, @RealDonaldTrump, and Janet Porter. /13 Here’s a quote about children from a book Values Voters say they read: ‘It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble.’ Luke 17:2 /end

Recreation of Statue Destroyed by ISIS Denounced by Jewish and Christian Extremists

From the website of the Dubai Future Foundation:

The UAE has officially inaugurated the Digital Archaeology Exhibition “The Spirit in the Stone” in the United Nations’ headquarters in New York City. The pioneering initiative saw the Dubai Future Foundation (DFF) partner up with the Permanent Mission of Italy to the United Nations and the Institute of Digital Archaeology at the University of Oxford.

The project seeks to preserve the cultural heritage and archaeological sites of the region – especially those threatened with destruction or vandalism – by documenting them and then replicating them using 3D-printing technology. At the inauguration event, the Foundation unveiled a newly created, with 3D technology, replica of the rare Statue of Athena, which joins the replica of Palmyra’s historic Arch of Triumph, the gateway to the ancient Syrian city that was destroyed by ISIS terrorists.

Nothing can adequately replace the original antiquities destroyed by the Islamic fundamentalists, but this takes us as far as we can in safeguarding and curating the memory of what has been irrevocably lost. It’s also an encouraging sign that Muslim governments are committed to the historical preservation of the region’s pre-Islamic heritage.

However, not everyone is happy – but the complaints are coming in from Jewish and Christian extremists rather than Islamic militants. A religious website called Breaking Israel News reports:

Rabbi Elad Dokow, the head rabbi and lecturer at Israel’s Technion Institute of Technology, was not surprised that the United Nations would feature a display of pagan symbols.

“There is currently an unmistakeable rise of paganism and idol worship in the world, more than any other religion, and it is naive to believe this display is disconnected from this phenomenon,” Rabbi Dokow told Breaking Israel News. “Paganism creates the ability for each man to create his own truth, as opposed to Judaism and Christianity, which state that there is an objective truth man must abide by. The UN, like paganism, is a place of subjective reality created by a vote.”

The article also tells us that:

It is also believed that the Greek goddess Athena was based on the earlier Mesopotamian goddess Ashera and was later incorporated into early Islam as al-L?t, worshipped in Saudi Arabia as the consort of Allah mentioned in the Koran. This would be consistent with the statue’s history at the site in Palmyra, which was used as a temple by the Mesopotamians, Romans, and Muslims in succession.

This is garbled. The notion that Athena must be “based on” a Mesopotamian goddess presumably derives from the out-dated assumption that we should look to historical information in the Bible for the origins of ancient religious phenomena – in fact, however, it would be more accurate to state that Athena and Ashera have a common derivation in a Cretan-Mycenaean goddess whose name is preserved on linear B tablets from Knossos as “a-ta-na- po-ti-na-ja”.

The second sentence is obviously meant to mock Islam by alluding to the “Satanic Verses” – a story in which Muhammad is said have been deceived by Satan into describing Lat (or Allat, “the Goddess”) and two other goddesses as “exalted”. However, this supposed message was quickly repudiated by Muhammad, so to say that Lat was “incorporated” into Islam is mischievous (although from the Bible it appears that Ashera was an ordinary part of Israelite religion until the goddess was purged from Israelite theology). Allat-Athena, as venerated at Palmyra, is a late combination. To suggest that the UAE project is motivated by “idol worship”, and that this is somehow derived from an element within Islam, is an absurdity.

Meanwhile, denunciations by Christian fundamentalists have been assembled by the conspiracy website WND, including a quote from WND editor Joseph Farah:

“Most people today don’t realize how much of a hold ancient pagan beliefs, practices and images still have on their lives,” said Joseph Farah, author of “The Restitution of All Things: Israel, Christians and the End of the Age.” “In fact, pagan values and traditions have never left us. Even Jews and Christians are impacted by them. And they are not innocent because the gods of paganism are actually demons, according to the Bible. It’s not something to be played with.

“The question confronting us right now is: Why would the United Nations be involved in resurrecting these occult images and icons of the past? Do they not understand what this represents – the false gods of child sacrifice and all kinds of abominations and perversions?”

Various self-styled “prophecy experts” and pastors concur: the article goes on to quote the likes of Jonathan Cahn (who famously predicted an economic crash for September 2015), Carl Gallups (a depraved Sandy Hook Truther who has explicitly mocked a grieving parent), Bill Cloud (blogged here) and WND‘s Joe Kovacs. According to Gallups:

“The Bible warns us that in the days before the return of Christ, there would be an unprecedented demonic outpouring,” Gallups told WND. “We are the first generation to live in the days of instantaneous communication and information technologies connecting the entire globe. The demonic have a stage like never before. And now the ‘gods’ are parading out their images, manipulating and using human agents to do so. The ‘gods are behind the ‘thrones’ of earthly powers. Satan is furious, he knows his time is short, as Revelation 12 says.”

There is some irony in seeing Christian fundamentalists in the USA superstitiously denouncing the activities of historians and art restorers as the work of the devil while an authoritarian middle-eastern state sponsors what is actually a commendable and enlightened educational project in the public interest.

I previously blogged on the reconstructed “Triumphal Arch” here. That project provoked similar responses, while an earlier plan to recreate the arch from Palmyra’s Temple of Baal prompted warnings that its erection in New York would create a Ghostbusters-style trans-dimensional portal.

London Times Probes Grenfell Tower “Jewish Sacrifice” Conspiracy Theorist

From the London Times:

A leading proponent of the conspiracy theory that the 9/11 terror attack was faked by Jews has gained a prominent role as a Grenfell Tower volunteer.

Tahra Ahmed has claimed that the tower victims were “burnt alive in a Jewish sacrifice”.

Attending a town hall protest two days after the fire, she told reporters there that the fire was a “holocaust”. She has previously described Hitler’s massacre of Jews as the “holohoax”.

Ms Ahmed, 47, was an activist at the protest about the fire and has been running a volunteer network to help those affected by the tragedy.

The article goes on to note other examples of Ahmed’s anti-Semitism, such as her view expressed on Facebook that “Hitler and the Germans were the victims of the Jewish conspiracy to destroy Germany”.

Unfortunately, the piece does not properly describe the extent of her “network”. The article is one of several by Dominic Kennedy published in the paper today that contrasts the support group Grenfell United with other groups, the latter depicted as unreasonable militants out to “hijack” and “exploit” the issue through exaggerated claims and rhetoric. Among those mentioned is Ishmahil Blagrove of Justice4Grenfell, a long-time activist who we are told somewhat cryptically “has published work by an anti-Obama conspiracy theorist”. The Russian news channel RT also gets a mention, for attempting to “foment ‘class war’ in Britain” by misreporting on Grenfell (it’s not clear why “class war” is in quote marks – an anomaly that RT has seized on in its response).

Ahmed previously featured in reporting in June, when she was quoted as part of a protest at Kensington Town Hall:

Tahra Ahmed, who was involved in organising the protest, branded the tower fire a ‘holocaust’. The former Metropolitan Police worker admitted she was ‘hoping the protest doesn’t get worse’ after repeatedly being forced to intervene to stop violence against police throughout the evening.

However, there isn’t much else online about her Grenfell activism, and so it may be that she is something of an outlier and that her “network” is small. Presumably she is not part of Justice4Grenfell, or else Kennedy would have mentioned it. I previously blogged on Grenfell Tower conspiricism here.

Ahmed is, though, of interest as someone with long-standing links on the “conspiricist left”. In 2014 she appeared on The Richie Allen Show, a conspiracy podcast (see here) produced in association with David Icke, to talk about a project called “the re-set” (the lower-case is deliberate). Her associate in this project is Ray Savage, a former police officer and conspiracy theorist who later participated in at least one anti-“Satanic Ritual Abuse” protest outside a church in Hampstead. The “re-set” supposedly refers to a constitutional “re-set” provision within Britain’s laws – a pseudo-legal concept akin to “Freeman of the Land” and “Sovereign Citizen” fantasies. The website can be seen here, although an archived version is a bit more informative.

The year before that, Ahmed organized a “Truth Movement” conference in London called “Seek Speak Spread Truth”, with “Gilad Atzmon, Ken O’Keefe, Alan Hart, Les Visible, Kevin Schot, Nahida Exiled, David Messenger, and Gill Kaffash”. The event caught the notice of the Community Security Trust.

A bit of Googling also reveals an association with Tony Farrell, a 9/11 and 7/7 Truther who claims to have had a career in the police, and with a woman who refers to herself as “Charles Seven” – this latter person describes 7/7 as

a media mafia ritualistc satanic witch hunt vendetta to psychologically torture, terrify and paralyse me into not bringing my evidence to court exposing conspiracy to defraud and murder by way of widespread racketeering of trillions using stolen intellectual property and other highly sinister activities from 2003 onwards.

These links are revealed in emails by Ahmed published by Mark Windows, an actor and director who was a presenter at the The People’s Voice, a media project of David Icke and Sean Adl-Tabatabai (previously blogged here). Windows alleges that his scepticism of “Seven’s” claims led to him being defamed on a now-defunct conspiracy website called called Syncrenicity, run by a certain Tony Kilvert and owned by one Keir Argent. Windows claims that “Seven” arrived at The People’s Voice in the company of Ahmed and Savage to make their case to Icke.

Media Continues Campaign of Attacks on Stop Funding Hate

The Times reports:

They claim to be taking on hatred by persuading companies to pull advertisements from certain newspapers, but online posts by supporters of the Stop Funding Hate campaign betray the venom it attracts.

…Among those who post regularly about the campaign is one who tweets under the name @westlake1972. He repeatedly calls anyone he deems to be right-wing a “c***”, using the insult against Nick Robinson and John Humphrys, the Radio 4 Today hosts, and Jonathan Dimbleby, the television presenter. Another regular supporter, @speedyned, ruminates whether to “kill” his or her in-laws for reading “Mail and Express” and Gary Cook called Mr [Boris] Johnson a “horrible, vile, f***ing racist C***” for saying that Barack Obama was a “part-Kenyan president”.

Stop Funding Hate highlights examples of what it considers to be hateful rhetoric in newspapers, and asks supporters to politely raise their concerns with advertisers. In recent weeks the stationery store Paperchase and Pizza Hut have both apologised for running promotions with the Daily Mail and the Sun.

@westlake1972 has 788 followers on Twitter, and no public profile; @speedyned appears to have deleted his Tweets and purged all his followers, but there is no residual evidence that he or she ever interacted with anyone else. I have not been able to trace Gary Cook, so cannot confirm whether his objection to Johnson was indeed because Johnson had referred to Obama’s ancestry, or because Johnson had inferred from this that Obama must be anti-British. @westlake1972 frequently uses “Tory cunt” as an insult, but his vagina monologues also include Jeremy Corbyn (“I think Corbyn is a cunt”) and Tony Benn (“narcissistic cunt”).

The trollish trio unearthed by The Times and thus now preserved in the UK’s paper of record are presented as evidence – to quote the headline – of the “Online Venom of Campaigners against Hatred”. The headline at least agrees that the campaign’s target is indeed “hatred”, although this implication was probably unintentional.

The Times article is just the latest media attack on Stop Funding Hate: two weeks ago, the Daily Mail‘s hatchet man Guy Adams wrote a two-page spread in which he trawled through Tweets by people who had RTed Stop Funding Hate, and like The Times today he found a few “gotchas” – I wrote about this at the time. Then, a few days ago, the Foreign Secretary put his name to a Sun op-ed complaining that the campaign is attacking “the very basis of our democracy”.

However, despite Boris Johnson’s fulminations, there was no explanation as to why exactly, if I have a choice between spending my money with Business A, which has a connection with an enterprise that does not accord with my values, and spending it with Business B, which does not have such a connection, I should not prefer the latter. As Jo Maugham put it: “Denying an editorial line has commercial consequences is like denying gravity exists. And arguing about whether this fact is desirable is like arguing whether the fact of gravity is desirable.”

The Times article also claims that “scores of other [Stop Funding Hate] supporters have used often violent imagery”, but there is no systematic analysis and the term “scores” is vague. Presumably “scores” signifies that there are not so many that we can say say “hundreds” – which is of some significance given that the campaign has 84,400 followers on Twitter and 240,000 on Facebook. Thousands of supporters who have not expressed “online venom” is of course a non-story.

The article continues:

After Sarah Baxter, deputy editor of The Sunday Times, challenged [Stop Funding Hate’s Richard Wilson] on Newsnight, she claimed she was attacked on Twitter by his supporters, who called her “vermin”.

I could find just one example of this – and once again, it is from @westlake1972. There are, though, plenty of abusive comments about Stop Funding Hate, as the article acknowledges in passing:

Inevitably on the internet, trolls take on trolls, and many opposing the Stop Funding Hate campaign have attacked its supporters with reams of racist tweets.

This is a token attempt to be even-handed, but the approach is not comparable. Stop Funding Hate is apparently discredited because some specific people who support its aims have a history of online incivility; yet tabloid supporters abusing the campaign are simply the manifestation of a culture of trolling and are not of any broader significance.

The article also blends in some commentary:

However, the volume of Stop Funding Hate critics on social media suggests that Paperchase and Pizza Hut did not make savvy business decisions by apologising. For every Stop Funding Hate tweet there are several more who vow to stop buying the products specifically because the company has capitulated to bullying.

Those who have “vow[ed] to stop buying the products” are presumably good consumer activists. However, this barely disguised pitch (warning?) to advertisers is an over-simplification.  It looks to me that Paperchase identified a reputational risk, and decided to act. That risk cannot be calculated simply by totting up numbers on social media – instead, the values of target consumers (and perhaps also of members of staff) have to be taken into account. Advertisers tend to flee association with objectionable content on instinct when it appears that controversy is brewing (as was demonstrated by a case in the summer involving Land Rover and Barbour).

And where exactly was the “bullying”? If Paperchase had been “bullied” into apologising for its promotion with the Daily Mail, the article would surely have displayed abusive comments aimed at the company, instead of random nasty comments from non-entities about media figures.