Tabloids Upset By Criticism of James Bond

From Ben Child’s “Week in Geek” column at the Guardian:

Should we watch old movies with one eye on the time and place in which they were made, or view them through a more modern mindset? That is the question the Twittersphere has been pondering after a video depicting some of James Bond’s most misogynist moments went viral on social media.

In chopping together scenes in which Her Majesty’s top spy takes advantage of vulnerable women, slaps bottoms and physically restrains women until they submit to sex, a YouTube cut-and-paste merchant who goes by the name Guru Kid has even missed most of 007’s nastiest behaviour…

Child’s article comes in the wake of a moral panic disguised as a critique of a moral panic: thus on 26 January several British tabloids ran pieces with headlines such as “‘James Bond is a sexist, racist rapist’: Millennials appalled after watching 007 film for first time” (Daily Mirror); “James Bond branded ‘flat out rapist’ by angry millennials” (Daily Star); “Dr NO! Millennials watching classic Bond movies for the first time blast ‘sexist’ and ‘racist’ plots online – and describe Sean Connery’s 007 as ‘basically a rapist'” (Mail Online); “James Bond: Millennials SLAM old movies ‘Sexist, racist and Sean Connery’s 007 is rapist'” (Express); and “James Bond films slammed as ‘racist and sexist’ by young people watching them for the first time with Sean Connery’s with Sean Connery’s spy labelled ‘basically a rapist'” (The Sun).

It’s not clear why there was a flurry on that particular day: was there some ur-text that inspired them all, or did one article go viral and so the others decided to bandwagon? Either way, this is effortless journalism: simply select some Tweets expressing a particular view, string them together, and present them as a collection that exposes some awful truth about the state of society. In this case, we are to infer that young people are censorious and oversensitive, and unable to value Bond’s hyper-competent masculinity. Thus the outrage machine is fed: “why can’t these people simply not watch the films if they are offended by them?” is the cry from those offended by critical comments they have chosen to read.

In fact, though, it is hardly controversial to point out that aspects of the franchise are dated, and that attitudes and actions depicted in the early films and books would not be acceptable or even credible today. The point that even Daniel Craig’s modern depiction has an unlikable side is perfectly reasonable, too. As Child points out:

Bond producers have acknowledged 007’s status as an unreconstructed brute in more recent episodes. When Judi Dench’s M first meets Pierce Brosnan’s suave super-spy in GoldenEye (1995), she lambasts him as a “sexist, misogynist dinosaur, a relic of the cold war”, while she describes the Daniel Craig version as a “blunt instrument” in Casino Royale (2006)…

One of the clips in the viral video (which was actually uploaded in 2016, and is lighthearted in tone) is from Moonraker, and shows Roger Moore’s sexist surprise that the scientist Dr Goodhead is a woman. However, this dinosaur attitude is clearly presented in the film as a joke at Bond’s (and perhaps Moore’s) expense: Bond is flawed and out of touch.

Perhaps the most controversial clip in the video compilation is from Diamonds are Forever, in which Bond rips off a woman’s bikini top and throttles her with it. The context here is Bond as a ruthless and angry interrogator seeking information from a Blofeld associate, rather than Bond as a sex attacker, but the scene is sufficiently disturbing that when the film is regularly re-shown on ITV during the daytime the segment is censored. This excision has failed to excite the kind of controversy provoked by members of the public expressing their views on Twitter.

The panic over criticism of Bond can be placed within a couple of contexts: first, that criticism of the taken-for-granted is “political correctness” (thus it’s one thing for Walt Disney to bowdlerise fairytales, but quite another to criticise fairytale princes for kissing without consent); and second, that this is another attack on that persecuted minority known as “the white straight male”.

On this second point, there was an earlier James Bond controversy last month, when Barbara Broccoli stated regarding the future of the film series that “Anything is possible… who knows what the future will bring?” Tabloids extrapolated from “anything is possible” not that the next Bond actor might be Timothy Spall or Warwick Davis, but that “James Bond boss says next 007 after Daniel Craig ‘could be a woman'”, even though she had provided no such quote. The prospect was again met with howls of dismay, as an attack on aspirational masculinity.

Fleming’s character has obviously been tweaked more than once over the years, both in the films and in the continuation novels. For instance, Bond as a smoker is no longer credible given the physical demands of his job, and tobacco in any case is associated with weakness and addiction rather than sophisticated pleasure. The issue with a female Bond, or a Black Bond, it seems to me, is that the filmmakers would have to decide whether Bond lives in a universe in which race and sex are mere incidental details, or if these aspects of identity affect how he or she is treated by the world and acts within it. If the latter, then the whole dynamic of the series needs to be re-thought.

However, the test of a formula’s strength is how far it can be explored through variation and reinvention rather than just repetition. Eventually, the character of James Bond will enter the public domain, at which point all kinds of new directions will be available, as we have seen with Sherlock Holmes; and unofficial interpretations already exist, depicting Bond as elderly, or battling supernatural beings, and so on. Are tabloids going to whip up a storm whenever one of these new versions is not to their liking?

Donald Trump Poses with Book that Claims God told Prophets He Would Become President

The AFP reports from Davos:

“He was very, very hospitable and personal. He just said ‘Yes, I’ll sign that for you’.” — Deborah O’Hara Rusckowski, 58, who held out a book for Trump to sign called “God and Donald Trump”, a study on whether supernatural intervention brought the US leader to power.

Photos posted to social media show that Trump did not just sign the book (previously blogged here) – he also held it aloft. One of those photos can now be seen in a review of the book by Amy Sullivan published at Politico a couple of days ago; another appears on Charisma News, the neo-Pentecostal news service owned by Steven Strang, the author of God and Donald Trump and a significant figure in evangelical publishing.

The Charisma News article refers to Sullivan’s review and is headlined “Ultra-Liberal Website Delivers ‘Surprisingly Accurate’ Review of ‘God and Donald Trump”. The headline is odd, given that Sullivan’s assessment is quite critical:

At a certain point in “God and Donald Trump,” the recent theological gymnastics on display from Tony Perkins and Jerry Falwell, Jr., among others, to explain ongoing conservative Christian support for a president who (allegedly) paid off a porn star weeks before Election Day so she would keep quiet about their (alleged) affair become clear. There will be no point at which Trump’s most loyal evangelical and charismatic supporters declare they have had enough. Because to do so would be to admit that they were wrong, that God wasn’t behind Trump’s election, and that their Holy Spirit radar might be on the fritz. That it was, after all, about something as temporal and banal as hating his Democratic rival.

However, Sullivan describes the book as “surprisingly fascinating”, and she notes the various Christian Right activists who came out for Trump:

Strang attempts to explain evangelical fervor for Trump and provides a window into the world of charismatics, a subset of evangelical Christians who believe God still speaks to people through prophesies and is still actively involved in arranging the world of human affairs.

…A Catholic holy man named Thomas Zimmer who spent much of his life in Italy even claimed to have received a prophesy in the 1980s that Trump would “lead America back to religion.” And the book is filled with testimony after testimony from Christian leaders who were amazed to find themselves supporting Trump in 2016, who each claim that he was their very last choice up until he won the Republican nomination.

Strang’s view is not just that Trump is God’s man for the hour – it is also that this can be confirmed by signs following. Background to the Zimmer claim was published by Strang on Charisma News in July; the “Hermit of Loreto”, who died in 2009, was apparently

so sure Donald Trump would become a great spiritual leader of America that he wrote his name on a brick and had it placed in the reconstruction of St. Peter’s Holy Door after the Jubilee [in 2000] so Trump would receive blessings from the many Masses that would be said in the Vatican.

The source for the story is an American priest named Fr. Giacomo Capoverdi, who says that he heard it from a doctor named Claudio Curran.

A Note on the Obama-Farrakhan Photograph

From the Trice Edney Wire, a week ago:

It was during a mid-2005 Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) meeting on Capitol Hill when award-winning journalist Askia Muhammad captured one of the most significant photos of his career.

Muhammad had doggedly covered then Chicago Sen. Barack Obama since he “first laid eyes on him” at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. Now, here was the Senator in a warm conversation with constituent and fellow Chicagoan Minister Louis Farrakhan. As leader of the Nation of Islam, Farrakhan is another star in Black America, but one whose name is synonymous with controversy.

…Muhammad had not even left the scene when he received a call and the photo was being summoned by a member of the Congressional Black Caucus. Muhammad ultimately surrendered the disk to Minister Farrakhan’s chief of staff. And it remained one of America’s best hidden secrets for the next 12 years…

The existence of the photo has been known for some time: Farrakhan made a public reference to it in October 2016, explaining that

I knew that if I ever let that go out, they would use that to hurt that brother. So you never saw it.

The photo has now been released by Muhammad ahead of the publication of his autobiography, The Autobiography of Charles 67X (previewed by Houston Style Magazine here). Its appearance has received widespread and mostly negative attention as evidence of Obama’s supposed secret militancy, and of media collusion in hiding information from the public. Fox News in particular has been promoting the story – Muhammad gave an interview to Tucker Carlson, while Fox and Friends invited commentary from Alan Dershowitz, who says that he would never have endorsed Obama in 2008 had he known of it.

According to Fox, the Congressional Black Caucus “buried” the photo and “pressured”  Muhammad “for more than a decade” not to disclose it. However, this is isn’t quite borne out by the details of the story. At the time, Muhammad was White House Correspondent for Farrakhan’s Final Call newspaper, and it appears that he simply left it up to his boss to decide whether it should be published or not. No-one knew that he had kept a copy for himself, and so the issue of “pressure” does not arise. Indeed, it seems that Muhammad is in sympathy with the reasons not to have released it before now, stating that the photo “would have made a difference” had it appeared during the 2008 Presidential election campaign.

Farrakhan came to Capitol Hill for a meeting during July 2005; Muhammad reported this in Final Call at the time, writing that

Just as individual members have, for some time, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), as a whole, is now preparing to play its part in the Millions More Movement.

Although their meeting was interrupted several times by votes on the House Floor, practically all 43 CBC members eagerly attended parts or all of a two-hour session at the Capitol July 20 with the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan and several leaders of the 10th Anniversary Commemoration of the Millions Man March to be held in Washington Oct. 14-16.

Following the unpublicized strategy session, CBC Chair Melvin Watt (D-N.C.) told reporters that the CBC supports the October mobilization. The CBC is determined to become involved before and, most importantly, after the Commemoration to ensure that the Millions More Movement is an ongoing movement that addresses the concerns of our people.

This seems to be the “mid-2005” meeting mentioned by Trice Edney Wire article; certainly, a low resolution group photo that is included with the Final Call article appears to be consistent with the Farrakhan-Obama picture. However, Obama is not mentioned in the Final Call article, and he appears to have left by the time the group photo was taken. Even so, though, the fact that “practically all 43 CBC members eagerly attended” obviously indicated that Obama may have been present, and so the photo is not some shocking revelation.

At the New Yorker, Vinson Cunningham provides some general context:

[Farrakhan] seems to relish backing black liberals into a corner, most recently Representative Keith Ellison, whose campaign for D.N.C. chairman, last year, devolved into a referendum on his past friendliness with the Nation of Islam. Farrakhan is the author of vile, uncountable, unreconstructed, cause-derailing anti-Semitic slurs, but his “Million Man March” made him and the Nation a stubborn, unignorable feature of the political landscape for black would-be public servants who came of age in the nineteen-nineties….

This is the difficulty with comparing Farrakhan to David Duke. The Million Man March, and Farrakhan’s place in public life more generally, cannot sensibly be reduced to vile things he has said (or to the eccentricities of Nation of Islam theology). In contrast, Duke has never organised or done anything that has managed to transcend the worst of his character.

The Farrakhan-Obama photo is obviously embarrassing, but there is nothing in Obama’s political past that now suddenly makes more sense because of it. However, the price of activism on behalf of black advancement ought not to be a willingness to tolerate or overlook anti-Jewish hatred. Perhaps, though, given the complexities of the “political landscape” as outlined by Cunningham, Obama should be allowed a Mulligan.

Automated Messages From Tommy Robinson Cited in Finsbury Park Mosque Attack Trial

Note: In this post I discuss the way that prosecution evidence produced in a live trial has been presented in the media. However, no inference should be drawn about the significance or validity of that evidence while the trial is in progress.

The Independent‘s Lizzie Dearden reports from the trial of Darren Osborne, who is accused of having driven a van into worshippers leaving Finsbury Park Mosque in June:

The alleged Finsbury Park terror attacker read messages from Tommy Robinson and Jayda Fransen in the lead-up to the atrocity, a court has heard.

…Mr Osborne joined Twitter on 3 June and [allegedly] started following far-right accounts, including some linked to the far-right extremist group Britain First.

Prosecutor Jonathan Rees QC said he received a “direct message” from Ms Fransen, the group’s deputy leader, on the same day but did not detail its contents.

….The following week, he received an email from Mr Robinson, the former English Defence League leader, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, the court heard.

…Discussing the Isis-linked terror attack that killed 22 people in Manchester the previous month, it said: “What Salman Abedi did is not the beginning, and it won’t be the end…”

…The second email from Mr Robinson to Mr Osborne came on 14 June and detailed the campaign for a woman whose rapists were not prosecuted, jurors were told.

“Dear Darren, you know about the terrible crimes committed against [name redacted] of Sunderland,”….

The formal “Dear Darren” in the second message from Robinson is an obvious sign that the messages were circulars rather than personal communications – and a bit of googling shows that at least some of the text from the first email corresponds to the blurb for a protest event that was held in Manchester in June. This is made clearer in a BBC News report:

…Mr Osborne later received an invitation to a demonstration from an account using the name Tommy Robinson calling for participants to “stand up and say no more” to extremism.

Mr Rees said: “No-one is suggesting it’s him [Mr Robinson] in person but obviously people who follow Tommy Robinson.”

Despite this, however, the initial impression in media reports and Tweets was that the prosecution was claiming that Robinson had been in personal contact with Osborne – an impression heightened by confusion between the alleged “direct message” from Fransen and the emails sent on behalf of Robinson.

At 3.15pm, Dearden wrote on Twitter that “To all those asking what medium Tommy Robinson sent messages to Darren Osborne by – the prosecution said they were direct but gave no further detail”; 25 minutes later, she explained that “The two messages from Mr Robinson were automated emails sent out to a mailing list of subscribers to The Rebel website, and had been screengrabbed by Mr Osborne” (or “allegedly screengrabbed”, it may have been wiser to have written). This was an hour after Fiona Hamilton of The Times similarly “clarified” a Tweet from the morning. @MetroUK, meanwhile, decided to delete a Tweet stating that “Finsbury Park ‘attacker got Twitter DMs from Tommy Robinson days before attack’.

The alleged message from Fransen is known only from the record of a notification; the content itself is lost. It seems to me that it may well have been an automated “Thank you for following” DM or similar.

Robinson has responded to the coverage by claiming that Dearden has put his “life in danger” by “fake news & misrepresentations”; he may have reason to complain, but the indignant pose is hard to take from a man who once told a crowd that “every single Muslim… got away with killing and maiming British citizens” on 7/7 (to give just one example of unreasonable rabble-rousing). The question of direct contact with the accused is distinct from the question of whether the accused was inspired by Robinson and, if so, whether Robinson is culpable due to “fake news & misrepresentations” of his own.

In the wake of the terror attack, Robinson posted Tweets alleging that the mosque was a hotbed of extremism, adding that “I’m not justifying it, I’ve said many times if government or police don’t sort these centres of hate they will create monsters as seen tonight.” As evidence, he drew attention to The Suicide Factory, a book about the mosque’s association with Abu Hamza. For some reason, though, he did not feel the need to clarify that the book had been published more than ten years ago, and that Abu Hamza had been expelled in 2003. The mosque closed down a few months later, and opened under new management in 2005. It is no longer a focus of controversies over extremism.

However, a couple of days before the attack, the mosque’s troubled past was referenced in the media in relation to the organiser of a protest held in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy – I discussed this here.

A Note on “Weaponising” Social Media Abuse By Claiming Victimhood

From Douglas Murray at the Spectator:

Last week I wrote in this space about Cathy Newman’s catastrophic interview with the Canadian academic Jordan Peterson. Since then a number of things have happened. One is that millions of people around the world have watched Newman’s undisguisedly partisan interview. The other is that Channel 4 has tried to turn the tables by claiming victimhood.

…Of course genuine threats against public figures should be treated with the utmost seriousness. Actual threats require the police to get involved. Threatening anybody with violence is not only wrong but a crime. People mocking you mercilessly on the other hand (‘So what you’re saying, Professor Peterson, is that lobster women should be paid less lobster money than men’) is neither a police matter nor even a matter for security specialists. It’s something that everybody in the public eye has to deal with, and only certain types of people try to weaponise to their own advantage.

The interview has been dissected in some detail by Conor Freidersdorf at the Atlantic; it is reasonable to take the view that in this instance the aggressive scepticism that we like to see from journalists in conversation with public figures was compromised by Newman’s personal animosity, resulting in misjudged lines of attack that repeatedly misrepresented her interview subject. After the interview, it was reported that Newman had been “rocked” by death threats and that her employer had brought in a security specialist.

So who are these “certain types of people” of whom Murray speaks? Murray doesn’t say – instead, he changes the subject by complaining that while there has been high-profile sympathy for Newman, there was nothing comparable when it was revealed during a terror trial that an Islamist terrorist had expressed a wish to behead Katie Hopkins. This then segues into a rebuke of those who have made merry over the fact that Hopkins is currently selling her house, apparently to meet her financial obligations after losing a libel case (a case in which she had acknowledged making a false claim but had refused to apologise).

In fact, what Murray refers to as ” tr[ying] to turn the tables by claiming victimhood” is standard practice these days. I looked at two examples just last month. One concerned a Mail on Sunday front page splash blaming Jeremy Corbyn for abusive comments received by a Conservative MP after Corbyn quite reasonably denounced his banter in the House of Commons (the article even uses the phrase “the MP turned the tables on Mr Corbyn” in relation to his complaint). The other example was the ludicrous press coverage of the Stop Funding Hate campaign, which for the most part has consisted of “exposing” uncivil Tweets by random individuals who have RTed Tweets posted by the campaign – thus criticism of the press becomes “online hatred”.

The point is not that those on the receiving end of social media incivility – whether abuse, harassment or threats – are wrong to complain publicly, or that the media should ignore it. Rather, it is that coverage should be proportionate and precise, and that there should be some scepticism when this sort of thing diverts attention away from legitimate criticism or is used to stigmatise or intimidate critics by supposed association.

“Westminster VIP Child Sex Abuse” Accuser Granted IICSA “Core Participant” Status

On Lord Bramall: “Who’s that cow bag saying Bramall is an innocent man?”

From the Sunday Times:

A former MP is to write to Alexis Jay, head of an inquiry into child sex abuse, challenging her decision to grant a key role to a woman he describes as a “fantasist”.

John Hemming, who was the Liberal Democrat MP for Birmingham Yardley from 2005 until 2015, was accused by Esther Baker of raping her at paedophile sex orgies in woods at Cannock Chase, Staffordshire, when she was aged between six and 11. She said police officers would stand guard, and bring back children who ran away.

The Staffordshire force investigated the allegations for more than two years but dropped the case in September.

Now Baker, 35, has been granted “core participant” status for the Westminster strand of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, chaired by Jay. The special status will allow Baker to see confidential documents and she could also claim expenses. Baker will also be allowed to suggests questions to be put to witnesses giving evidence.

An earlier article covering the same ground was published yesterday in the Daily Mail. Both pieces quote Hemming as saying that Baker has “a public track record of continually changing her public allegations”, with the earlier article adding that:

…In a High Court witness statement this month, the ex-MP claimed that two weeks before she accused him of rape, Miss Baker had emailed him and sought his help.

He said: ‘She did not accuse me of being a rapist … she said she had been abused as a child in a faith-related paedophile ring. Her own MP and the Prime Minister did not assist her so she forwarded the email to me asking for my help.

…In his statement, part of legal action he is taking against a supporter of Miss Baker, Mr Hemming alleged that prior to accusing him she tweeted that she had ‘never’ met an MP.

I previously discussed the case in September, and before that in October 2015. Although Baker has never used the phrase “Satanic Ritual Abuse”, her account of being abused in woodlands with police guards and the participation of professionals such as a judge are obvious SRA tropes.

It is true that Baker’s allegations changed and developed – she first gave an interview to  Channel 4 News as “Becky” in January 2015, in which she said that she had been abused “in a church setting”, and that some of the abusers had been police officers who attended the church. These police officers were later described as guards at woodland orgies. Later, Baker went on to explain that she had been transported by night without her mother’s knowledge to Dolphin Square in London, where she had been subjected to sex abuse by VIPs. She claimed to recall a “medical room” described by “Darren”, a now-discredited “Westminster VIP” accuser who in turn claimed to remember seeing Baker.

The Sunday Times says that Baker first claimed that politicians were involved in her alleged abuse in May 2015, although she has published a screenshot showing that she had accused Hemming privately to a third party on 30 January 2015. Three months before this date, Hemming had criticised the decision to make Fiona Woolf the head of the IICSA – in contrast, Woolf was supported by a significant activist with links to Baker.

Baker also remains a strong supporter of Operation Midland’s “Nick”, whose sensational claims of having seen public figures rape, torture and murder children sent the Metropolitan Police on a multi-million pound wild-goose chase: in February 2016 she asked “Who’s that cow bag saying Bramall is an innocent man?”, referring to Nick’s allegations against the former Chief of the General Staff of the British Army. According to Nick, Lord Bramall would spend Remembrance Sunday not in commemoration of Britain’s war dead, but instead participating in sadistic CSA orgies during which remembrance poppies were pinned onto his victim’s bare skin – bizarre ritual inversions that again recall SRA [UPDATE 2019: Nick can now be named as Carl Beech, and his claims have been found to have been fraudulent. More details here].

Baker has many supporters on social media who are invested in the idea of “VIP abuse” conspiracies as being the secret key to understanding British public life over many decades. These supporters believe that pointing out difficulties and inconsistencies in “survivor” allegations is an act of wickedness, and probably part of a conspiracy to protect and promote paedophiles. Baker’s contemptuous “cow bag” abuse against someone for daring to defend the reputation of the elderly Lord Bramall is just a hint of what lies ahead for those who give testimony to the IICSA that is not to her liking.

In response to the new articles, supporters argue that the material can be dismissed out of hand for the simple reason that it has been published in the Daily Mail. Baker also says that her case in fact is ongoing, and that there is further evidence that she cannot currently talk about but that “due process” will reveal. It should be noted that although the Sunday Times article says that Staffordshire Police “dropped the case”, the decision was actually taken by the CPS, on the grounds that Baker’s allegations could be a case of mistaken identity. Baker is currently challenging this decision through formal channels (she says “they applied the wrong guidelines”), and the article has the detail that “Staffordshire police have said they will continue to support her”. Further, she has indicated that the police are still investigating other complaints she has made, and as such reports that raise doubts about her Hemming allegations are “prejudicial”.  According to her account, we are unlikely to know more until 2019.

Hemming’s name was not publicised in the media until September 2017, when he came forward (although activists had named him at events before then, and it was widely known that he had been accused by Baker). This meant that his initial quotes on the subject in 2015 were not at the time directly attributed to him, such as this one in the Guardian:

The former MP said: “We must continue to listen to people who allege that they have been abused as children. We must not be derailed by … politicians, like Jess Phillips and John Mann, who have been openly campaigning on one side of this case during an ongoing police investigation.”

Phillips won Hemming’s seat in the 2015 General Election, since when she has achieved wide public recognition. The same article includes indignant denials from the two politicians, although it is certainly the case that they promoted Baker’s narrative and would have known that Hemming was the “former MP”. However, neither Phillips nor Mann have made further public statements about Baker since the CPS dropped the case and Hemming went public.

Guatemala’s President Follows Trump in Accepting Award From “End Times” Author

A press release from the Friends of Zion Museum:

Guatemala’s Evangelical President Morales accepted the Friends of Zion Award in the Presidential Palace from Friends of Zion founder Dr. Mike Evans for his historic decision to move the Guatemalan Embassy to Jerusalem.

In December President Donald Trump, received the Friends of Zion Award from Dr. Mike Evans in the oval office at an event attended by Vice President Pence, Senior Advisors Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump and faith leaders representing over 150 million Christians globally.

Evans, as I noted last month, is a high-profile Christian Zionist who has written numerous books linking current global politics to the “End Times”: his many titles include The Final Move Beyond Iraq (blogged here); Showdown with Nuclear Iran: Radical Islam’s Messianic Mission to Destroy Israel and Cripple the United States (written with the assistance of Jerome Corsi, whose birther “investigations” inspired Trump); and The Final Generation: Jesus is Coming Soon (“Bible prophecy after Bible prophecy points to the likelihood that the last generation before Jesus’ return is now on the Earth”).

Over the years, Evans has built relationships with Israel’s political establishment, and Israeli Ambassador Mattanya Cohen was in attendance when Evans presented Morales with the award, which came just days after anti-corruption protestors in Guatemala were violently suppressed by state forces.

In August, Guatemala’s constitutional court blocked Morales’s attempt to expel Ivan Velásquez, the Colombian head of the UN’s International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala. At the time, it was reported that Velásquez enjoyed the support of the US ambassador, Todd D. Robinson; however, Robinson was transferred to Venezuela in December, and in the same month Reuters quoted Michael Shifter of Inter-American Dialogue as saying that Morales’s support for Jerusalem as the capital of Israel “is a pretty low-cost way for Morales to make sure the Trump administration is on his side”.

Given that Evans has recently paid for more than a hundred “God Bless Trump” signs to appear around Jerusalem, it looks like it is also a “low-cost way” for Morales to promote himself as a pious Evangelical who is doing God’s work, rather than as a more controversial figure.

More “Rothschild” Conspiracy Mongering in the Labour Party Revealed

From the website of the Hastings & Rye Labour Party:

Below you will find statements supporting the individual candidacy of the shortlisted candidates for the Parliamentary Selection for Hastings & Rye Constituency Labour Party.

Update: 16 January 2018

The Parliamentary Selection Committee decided to remove  Michelle Harris from the shortlist. This was a retrospective decision when new information came to the attention of the committee.

The “new information” relates to Harris’s inability to tell the difference between supporting Palestinian rights and (a) making ill-considered references to the Holocaust in relation to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and (b) promoting David Icke’s memes and posts about “Rothschild Zionism”. Here’s an example of the latter:

It should be noted that this isn’t some young activist who might not know any better – Harris has been a practising barrister since 2000. Her posts appear to have first been noted a few days ago by Marlon Solomon, who has previously made the case that Icke should be regarded a “leading antisemite” rather than as a marginal clown with risible sci-fi ideas about the Queen being a giant lizard from another dimension.

The name “Rothschild” has exercised the imaginations of conspiracy theorists for 200 years (as discussed by Brian Cathcart here), who believe that the family is somehow the key to understanding the nature of banking and the history of the modern state of Israel. The further implication – sometimes admitted, at other times denied – is that the family’s supposed influence reveals a more general point about a secret and unaccountable “Jewish influence”. Icke himself seems to have come up with the formulation “Rothschild Zionism”.

Harris’s 2014 promotion of Icke is just one example of how his conspiracy thinking has infected the political left in the UK – last February I noted the case of a Labour councillor named John Clarke who announced that he was “anti-Rothschild not Antisemitic” after posting a meme on how “the Rothschild family… has been creating almost all of the world’s money at interest for a couple hundred years”. Clarke made no mention of Icke, but I suggested then that his “anti-Rothschild” pose must serve to mainstream Icke’s “Rothschild Zionism” ideas.

I critiqued the basis for “Rothschild” conspiricism both in my post about Clarke and in a post about the US alt-right here. It’s a theory and a pseudo-explanation that appears to be attractive to some on the left and on the right.

UPDATE: Harris has responded to the media coverage. She writes that

the post had been doctored to make it look bad, but what I’d actually shared was a picture of Gaza being bombed with a tagline this is not defence; and a meme praising an Israeli Jewish man who had refused to join the IDF.

It is not clear from this in what way exactly the post was “doctored”, but this does not amount to a denial that she posted a reference by David Icke to “Rothschild Zionist Israel”. I take it to mean that the picture and the meme were the point of her post, rather than Icke’s “Rothschild Zionist” comment introducing them, but that these were absent from the screenshot.

She also writes:

 I don’t personally use either term [“Rothschild” and “Zionist”]. The former because whilst I fully accept that the Israel propaganda and vested interests affect the honest reporting of the situation, it adds nothing in my view to single out one. As to Zionists I’ve had arguments with some of these trolls because I won’t delete people who use it, but don’t myself use it, as I think the word has different meanings to different people, and as such has little value as a word.

I take this and the above to mean that although she does not use the term “Rothschild Zionist” herself, she is tolerant of it. Her criticism is that “Rothschild” should not be singled out because it “adds nothing” to do so, not that using a Jewish surname in this way promotes very old anti-Jewish conspiracy theories and is actually misleading.

It was also reported that she had joined a David Icke group on Facebook. On this point, she writes that

It is also said I belong to a David Icke group but their screenshot showed I hadn’t joined but been added by another Facebook user, and thus is another lazy attempt to smear.

Clinical Psychologist Who Wrote Worboys Report Monstered as “Soft Justice Campaigner”

From the Mail Online:

A psychologist said to have recommended the release if the black cab rapist has spent 30 years calling for softer sentences for sex offenders, it has been revealed…

[John Worboys’s] release was signed off by the Parole Board following a report by Dr Jackie Craissati, a renowned clinical psychologist hired by Worboys’ defence team. 

It has now been revealed that Dr Craissati has campaigned for soft justice for sexual predators and paedophiles, who she claims should be ‘treated’ in the community.

At the weekend, the Observer reported that “prison and probation officials have complained that disproportionate weight was given to external advice” by an independent psychologist “hired by Worboys’s defence team”; the same article stated that the psychologist’s “identity is protected by parole board procedures”, but Craissati’s name was apparently leaked to the Daily Express. This prompted Paul Staines’s Guido Fawkes website to dig out some quotes from old media interviews and publications, presented as a list of “gotchas”. Staines’s site is directly referenced in the Mail Online story, which also copies Staines’s “soft justice” formulation.

The url for the Guido Fawkes article indicates that the original plan was to headline with the claim that Craissati has “spent her career” campaigning for “soft justice”, although at some point the headline was softened to just “campaigned”. This seems to be an acknowledgement that the central claim is weak. The supposed “campaign” appears to consist of providing a few media quotes when asked, and the fact that she wrote a book in 1998 called Child Sexual Abusers: A Community Treatment Approach. And these details, as expected, are not presented fairly by Staines.

Staines writes that the book “calls for” community treatment, heavily implying some sort of manifesto. However, although the text notes that as of 1997 “judges were increasingly inclined to ignore recommendations for community treatment”, the book is not a critique of sentencing policy but rather a description and assessment of such treatment as it already exists (in particular, the book focuses on the Challenge Project in southeast London). It may be popular to say that all offenders should simply be locked up forever, but the fact is that a range of professionals are tasked with managing offenders who are not in prison, and as such a book on the subject may be of some use. Thus the book blurb describes itself as of interest to “all professionals involved in the assessment and treatment of sex offenders, predominantly probation, social services and mental health professionals”.

Other quotes highlighted by Staines include Craissati’s observation that “it would seem that – despite under-reporting – a number of convicted sex offenders do not sexually reoffend.” If that is what the evidence indicates, it’s difficult to see why she ought not to say it, and it’s hardly a great surprise. There is also a reference to an interview, in which she stated that

[Media] coverage tends to make child molesters defensive, anxious, withdrawn, unco-operative… It makes my job much more difficult. It makes them go back into themselves when I’ve spent a year trying to get them to take responsibility.”

Staines removes “when I’ve spent a year trying to get them to take responsibility” from her quote, in order to give the impression that she is placing the sensitivities of offenders ahead of the public’s right to know and to express moral censure. In fact, though, she is simply explaining a reality of her job. And observation appears to be the basis for all the handful of quotes assembled by Staines and MailOnline and presented as evidence of a “campaign for soft justice”.

Of course, a clinical perspective on offenders is not the only factor that society needs to take into account when dealing with child sex abuse. Victims deserve justice, and may suffer if they don’t get it; there is the value of deterrence; and while offenders may be patients it must never be forgotten that they are also criminals. The justice system as a whole needs to ask more than just “is this person currently dangerous?”, but there is no reason to suppose that Craissati objects to this. The quotes do not support the thesis that her report on Worboys – the details of which remain unknown – was driven by an ideology of “soft justice”.

It’s also currently unclear how important her Worboys report was anyway. While the Observer article led with the opinion of unnamed “prison and probation officials” as conveyed by Harry Fletcher (former assistant general secretary of NAPO, the probation officers’ union), the very last paragraph has a quote from a Parole Board spokesperson that offers a different perspective:

“The parole board carefully considered a detailed dossier of evidence of nearly 400 pages and heard evidence from nine witnesses, including four psychologists, two probation officers and three members of prison staff… The independent parole board panel took account of all of that evidence. It is simply untrue to say that they were overly influenced by one individual’s evidence.”

UPDATE: As expected, the mood on social media is ugly, with crudely abusive comments about Craissati, exhortations to harassment and at least one user expressing a wish that she should come to harm. Social media has also introduced the distortion that she was “on the parole board”.

UPDATE 2: Staines may have had a personal reason for pursuing this story: one of Worboys’s victims was a young woman named Carrie Symonds, who gave an account to the Daily Tenegraph in 2009. Symonds has since become an activist with the Conservative Party, and has been linked with Staines’s associate Harry Cole.

Wall of Silence: Exhibition Inspired by Leon Brittan Accuser Coming to Parliament

A news release:

We start 2018 with some fantastic news from our good friends at Southmead Project. Over the last couple of years, the charity has curated the Wall of Silence – a touring exhibition including images, poems and stories from victims and survivors of child abuse. The exhibition has travelled around the country – from City Hall London to the Avon and Somerset Police headquarters – and has played an vital role in raising awareness about child abuse and championing the services that organisations like Southmead Project provides in helping survivors.

The charity has confirmed that the exhibition will now spend a week in the Upper Waiting Hall at the Houses of Parliament, commencing on Monday 16 April…

Southmead’s Mike Pierce previously announced this in December, and he specifically thanked the Labour MP Sarah Champion for her assistance.

I noted the exhibition’s presence at the National Assembly of Wales during 2016. At that time, the exhibition blurb said that it was the inspiration of someone called Carl, who said that he had been “abused by some powerful people”. Although this was somewhat vague, anyone who looked at the Carl’s social media output (since deleted) would very quickly see that he was claiming to have been victimised by VIPs at Westminster, in particular the late Conservative former Home Secretary Leon Brittan.

The Southmead Project’s webpage on the subject used to include a link to a specific “Wall of Silence” website, which explained that

Carl is in recovery from child sexual abuse: his story is one of extreme terror, mental turmoil, heartbreak, sadness and fear. Like many survivors and victims, he wishes to do something positive about the situation – both for himself and others and so he launched RAVSCA (Raising Awareness for Victims & Survivors of Child Abuse) an on-line space where survivors and victims of abuse could share their experiences through photographs, poems, stories and paintings.

This link has since been removed and the website is dead; a RAVSCA Facebook page is also now gone. Google results for RAVSCA bring up old results from 2015 and 2016, the most prominent of which are fundraising pages created by Carl himself (here and here), abandoned having achieved only a percentage of the requested funds. Carl’s original vision was for “a photographic exhibition for National Association for People Abused in Childhood” before Southmead took charge – however, although he raised money on this basis, RAVSCA was never itself registered as a charity and Carl was anonymous and therefore unaccountable.

Does the disappearance of RAVSCA mean that Carl’s story is no longer part of the Wall of Silence, despite the fact that he was the original inspiration for it? If so, there needs to be a proper explanation for this. Carl made shocking allegations against Leon Brittan, and now his project is to be set up in the very location where Brittan worked and made his name as a national public figure. One might have thought this would be a matter of some controversy, especially given that several allegations made against Brittan shortly before his death have failed to be substantiated.

But perhaps we ought not to ask too many questions – when the journalist Sean O’Neill of The Times asked Pierce for more information about it, a third party (Esther Baker, an associate of the Labour MP Jess Phillips) immediately intervened to denounce O’Neill as the “king paedo-protector” and to caution Pierce not to reply.