• First published in 2004 as Bartholomew’s Notes on Religion (BNOR).

    Previously at:
    blogs.salon.com/0003494
    barthsnotes.wordpress.com

    Email me
    (Non-commercial only)

  • Archives

  • Twitter

  • Supporting

  • Recent comments

Charisma News Author Publishes Book Denouncing “The QAnon Deception”

From Michael L. Brown at Christian news site Charisma News:

A few months ago, professor James Beverley, a respected research scholar and a Christian conservative, launched his own study of the QAnon controversy, looking for facts rather than come in with his preconceived ideas.

The more he studied, working with a team of fellow researchers, the more concerned he became, sharing some of his findings with me. We agreed that he should publish those findings in a book that could serve as the definitive, go-to guide for those wanting to know the truth about QAnon. And, with the book publishing process typically taking about one year from start to finish, we agreed that my ministry’s own publishing imprint, EqualTime Books, would release the book as soon as it was completed.

On Monday, he joined me on the radio to discuss that just-published book, The QAnon Deception: Everything You Need to Know about the World’s Most Dangerous Conspiracy Theory.

Not only was the content of the interview shocking, but some of the social media responses to the interview were shocking as well.

Beverley was instantly dismissed as an outright liar who was completely ignorant of the facts, and I was part of the deep state, seeking to cover up the truth.

Brown is something of an anomaly at Charisma News, which caters to the Charismatic and neo-Pentecostal end of the Christian Right – although he supports Trump he has cautioned against “blind allegiance” to the president, and his complaints when he feels secular media have misrepresented evangelicals are measured. His beliefs include a strong perception that malign spiritual forces are at work in the world (in particular the “Jezebel spirit”), but I suspect he regards some of the material published on the site – grandiose revelations from God to self-styled “prophets” or eccentric End Times prognostications – as something of an embarrassment.

The site’s owner, Stephen Strang, has published books on the prophetic significance of Donald Trump, and in recent weeks Charisma News has posted numerous articles amplifying all kinds of election fraud claims – including articles that bombastically assert Lin Wood’s “supernatural discernment”. Wood, it should be noted, has now more or less gone full QAnon. Also, in September the site published an article by Amir George titled “QAnon: Freedom Movement or Political Hoax?” which, while ultimately hedging, came as close as possible to giving an endorsement without making an investment:

It is as yet unclear whether QAnon is a hoax or a real movement. But what is abundantly clear is that there has been a sudden backlash and push to discredit it by the deep state and its various outlets. If nothing else, QAnon and related theories should move all believers to study, prayerfully discern and above all else, urge others to pray and mobilize the 37 million believers who did not vote in 2016.

George also refers to “a collaborative book written by 12 author/contributors and citizen journalists who have YouTube channels, blogs, Twitter followings or sub-Reddits that feature Q decodes, news and commentary”. He gives as the title WWG1WGA (Where We Go One We Go All), although this is garbled – the book he’s talking about is actually QAnon: An Invitation to the Great Awakening, and WWG1WGA is the name given to the author collective.

Given this background, when Brown’s column disappeared soon after it was published it was reasonable to wonder why, although in a Twitter exchange with RightWingWatch Brown explained that the article had gone live prematurely due to a scheduling error, and so had been temporarily withdrawn. It is now back in place.

As Brown notes, Beverley has scholarly credentials – his academic bioblurb can be seen here, and it includes the detail that the book was originally going to be titled The QAnon Explosion. Another book he has authored this year is God’s Man in the White House: Donald Trump in Modern Christian Prophecy, which “documents the hundreds of prophecies about Donald Trump that started over 10 years ago, and provides the political and religious context for the ongoing prophecies and controversies about the 45th president”. The book does not purport to be a work of analysis (unlike, say, my post on the supposed “Kim Clement prophecy” here), although it comes with an endorsement from Rodney Howard-Browne (a “close friend” of Beverley). His co-author Larry Willard (who published the book) implies in the foreword that God guided him to a Bible passage about Cyrus as the context in which he should understand Trump.

The QAnon Deception includes a section on “Satanism and Witchcraft” – Beverley has previously written critically of the 1980s “Satanic panic”, of which QAnon is the latest incarnation.

Lin Wood: Lawyer Described as Having “Supernatural Discernment” Denounces Mike Pence

From Charisma News, 24 November:

Prominent Lawyer Fights Election Fraud With Supernatural Discernment

Lin Wood, one of the most prominent and patriotic attorneys in America, joined the legal fight alongside President Trump’s legal team to save election integrity from fraud and political treachery, thereby, preserving the U.S. Constitution. However, according to his tweets, Wood, a man of deep faith and intimacy with the Holy Spirit, quickly discerned the spiritual battle of biblical proportions between God’s revelations and satanic influences fighting for control of the soul and future of America.

Then, the next day:

Prominent attorney Lin Wood also warns believers to be careful what information they choose to consume. Once-trusted sources of news and information may have come under the sway of globalists and compromised people who favor “The Great Reset,” a globalist initiative to rebuild the world economy after the COVID pandemic. It could open the doors wider for socialism and big government control, thus limiting people’s freedoms, including religious freedom and freedom of speech.

…Wood’s #FightBack Foundation Inc. was instrumental in recently raising financial support to post bail for Kyle Rittenhouse, the teenager who was arrested and charged with alleged murder in Wisconsin, even though video evidence showed him defending himself.

And finally, on 3 December:

In a historic event in Atlanta, Georgia, almost entirely ignored by mainstream media, patriotic legal duo Lin Wood and Sidney Powell held a press conference Wednesday.

…’We the People’ will not let them steal our vote,” he said. “We will not allow them to steal our freedom. Every lie will be exposed.”

Then, as if the Holy Spirit had downloaded a prophetic word to him, Wood launched into a faith-filled declaration, “And on Jan. 20, 2021, Donald J. Trump will be sworn in as president of the United States of America.”

Charisma News represents the neo-Pentecostal end of the Christian Right; the site is just one manifestation of Charisma Media, whose founding CEO Stephen Strang (in 2005 one of Time‘s “25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America”) is the author of several books that ruminate on the spiritual significance of Donald Trump. One of these, God, Trump, and the 2020 Election, includes a chapter on “Why Trump Might Lose”, in which Strang pre-emptively lays out an election fraud narrative, citing the thoughts of Tom Ertl, the national director for Christians For Trump (1). As such, it is not surprising that Charisma News has embraced all kinds of election trutherism, the reality of which is supposedly blatant and self-evident.

Alongside the alleged mountain of evidence, there are also special signs from God – thus the site reported on 2 December that onlookers had “photographed and videotaped what could be an angel” above Independence Hall in Philadelphia during a post-election prayer event led by Pastor Dutch Sheets, who had been instructed by God to engage in spiritual warfare against “Valkyrie”, a supernatural and demonic “plan to take over the country”. In the case of Lin Wood (previously discussed here), the trilogy of articles about him (2) amount to an irrevocable investment. Wood speaks with “supernatural discernment”, and his prediction of Trump’s second term amounts to a prophecy. This is impossible to back away from without making a humiliating climb-down.

As such, Wood’s more recent discourses may be problematic. Following the failure of so many legal challenges, and ridicule of their shortcomings (a Freudian slip turned “penalty of perjury” into “plenty of perjury” in one filing), Wood is now lashing out wildly, and he includes none other than Mike Pence in a list of “criminals & perverts who threaten our freedom”. Here’s the context, from recent Tweets (the first is embedded in the second, making the connection clear):

It is time to shine red hot light of truth on Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Stephen Breyer, Joe Biden, Obama, Clintons, Bill Gates, VP Mike Pence, Mark Meadows, Pat Cippoloni, Bush 41 & 43, George Soros, Cocaine Mitch, etc. Man, where is Jeffrey Epstein when you need him? [here]

And this is just the TIP of the iceberg. We The People now demand TRUTH. We The People now demand ACCOUNTABILITY for wrongdoing. This is OUR country. It is time for American Patriots to prepare to take it back from the criminals & perverts who threaten our freedom. [here]

In further Tweets, Wood makes QAnon-adjacent insinuations about Roberts in particular, implying that a black eye has some occult ritualistic meaning and making vile insinuations about his motives for having adopted children. He has also now made an utterly bizarre link between his first name being “Lucian” (Lincoln is his middle name) and St Lucian of Antioch, which is supposedly significant because his client Kyle Rittenhouse lives in Antioch, Illinois, and the apparent Nashville bomber Anthony Warner lived in Antioch, Tennessee. It appears, then, that Wood is in the grip of a grandiose religious mania.

On social media, there is some disquiet over Wood’s attack on Pence, who of course has played an important role in making Trump acceptable to evangelicals. In all likelihood, though, Charisma News will simply ignore it while continuing to promote claims made by Wood that are more useful for its owner’s religious-political agenda.

Notes

1. The book comes with a foreword by Eric Metaxas, whose transformation from evangelical “public intellectual” to Trump loyalist and election truther was recently charted by the Religious News Service. There are also blurbs from a Christian Right Who’s Who of Pat Robertson, Mike Huckabee, Paula White Cain, Alex McFarland, Bishop Harry R. Jackson, Jim Bakker, Kenneth Copeland, David Barton, David Lane, Michele Bachmann and Robert Jeffress (plus Dennis Prager, who is Jewish).

2. All three articles are by A.B. Petrucci, also known as Anthony Petrucci. Petrucci is a professional writer who “helps thought leaders tell the stories that will change the world”. He is particularly associated with Jorge L. Valdes, a former international drug dealer who had a conversion experience and is today a motivational speaker.

Franklin Graham “Tends To Believe” Stolen Election Narrative

From Franklin Graham, on Twitter:

Since the 2016 election, @POTUS @realDonaldTrump has been falsely accused, maligned, and attacked. He told us his campaign was spied on. He was right. He told us there was no collusion. He was proven right. When he says this election was rigged or stolen, I tend to believe him.

This is clever: Graham’s position does not rely any particular piece of evidence that might be deconstructed. Instead, he appeals on his many followers to invest in the election fraud narrative simply by having faith in the leader.

Even here, though, Graham qualifies his statement with “tend to”. This slight hedge against giving a hostage to fortune has been characteristic of his comments since the election. On 4 November he wrote that “many fear that some are trying to steal the election”, but although he didn’t explicitly give his own view he called for prayer “that the enemies of God would be quieted”; in the weeks that followed, he opined that “if there was fraud, let’s pray that God would reveal it, and that those responsible would be found out” and on 8 December he exhorted everyone to join him “in praying that if there is fraud, it would be proven… Forces of evil are at work”.

Yet despite piously intoning that “the American people need to know the truth”, he has had nothing to say about the shortcomings of the many cases that have been put before the courts, nor about the overheated conspiratorial rhetoric of the lawyers around Trump. The word “if” gives Graham an out, but there is no possibility in his mind that it might be Trump’s lawyers who ought to be “found out”, for spreading “fears” that are baseless and corrupt in intent.

Graham’s new statement is surprising given that on 14 December Graham seemed at last to have accepted that Trump had lost the election. On Facebook, he wrote that

I’m disappointed about the election… It is unfortunate that many people got confused and made the election about personalities rather than the policies of the candidates. President Trump will go down in history as one of the great presidents of our nation, bringing peace and prosperity to millions here in the U.S. and around the world. May God bless him, Melania, and their family, as God leads him to the next chapter in his life.

The evangelist then turned to the holy task of whipping up resentment against Biden’s appointments, on 18 December complaining that while Trump had “searched for the best of the best to run the various levels of gov’t” for Biden “competence doesn’t seem to be as important as diversity”.

So why now has Graham suddenly now come closer than ever to endorsing election fraud claims? Perhaps he was encouraged by news that Trump had discussed a military option for staying in power with Michael Flynn – Graham is an enthusiast for the disgraced general, whom he has described as “a man who has a distinguished record of service to this country and who many people feel was unfairly targeted”.

It’s also possible that he feels his position ought to align more clearly with what is now the default position on the Christian Right. If he were to say outright that Trump ought to accept that he has lost, it would put him at odds with allies such as Eric Metaxaas and alienate much of his base. Public thanks he received from Trump for his Facebook post may also have been an influence.

UPDATE: On 22 December, Graham promoted an article alleging election fraud by Newt Gringrich, adding: “I’ve known former Speaker of the House @NewtGingrich for a number of yrs. He might be one of the smartest people in politics today. In this article he shares his perspective of where we are today politically.” This amplification via character reference once again allows Graham to dodge the risk of endorsing any particular detail put forward as evidence.

Excurcus

On 5 November, before all the votes were finalised, Graham Tweeted that “my prayer is that we will have four more years of leadership that defends religious freedom, supports law and order, and is the most pro-life administration ever”. A few days later, this formed the basis of a item on the Christian Right website Charisma News by Amir George headed “Franklin Graham Says ‘4 More Years’ for President Trump”. The article was mainly about election fraud allegations and Rudy Giuliani’s planned lawsuits, and a false impression was given that Franklin’s comment was a reaction to these developments, rather than something he had said earlier.

Former Mail on Sunday Journalist Denies Role In Virginia Giuffre’s Alan Dershowitz Accusation

At the Daily Telegraph, Camilla Tominey notes some details from a transcript of a conversation between British journalist Sharon Churcher and New York publisher Tony Lyons concerning Virginia Roberts Giuffre’s allegations against Alan Dershowitz:

Ms Churcher then refers to an email Ms Roberts Giuffre sent her on May 5, 2011, also submitted in evidence, asking her to clarify the names of the men she claimed “had sent me to” during the interview to help her with a book pitch. The transcript of the email suggests Ms Churcher responded six days later, on May 11, 2011, saying: “Don’t forget Alan Dershowitz. JEs buddy and lawyer… We all suspect Alan is a pedo”.

Ms Churcher tells Mr Lyons she would never use the word “pedo”, adding: “I wonder about some of these emails, too, that she’s produced. Because of course you can change emails.”

Describing Prof Dershowitz as “a victim”, Ms Churcher suggests Ms Roberts Giuffre may have “confused him with this other Harvard professor” who was also friends with Epstein.

Roberts Giuffre is currently suing Alan Dershowitz in New York for defamation; the transcript has been filed by Dershowitz as part of his defence, and can be accessed here. Lyons has published books by Dershowitz, and Churcher had come to his office to discuss a book proposal of her own. She was unaware that Lyons was recording their exchange.

The 2011 email exchange between Churcher and Roberts Giuffre was published last year. Roberts Guiffre was attempting to put together a memoir, and she had emailed Churcher asking “if you have any information on you from when you and I were doing interviews about the J.E. story”, particularly as regards names of “pedo’s” (sic) “that J.E. sent me to”.

Churcher’s reply, in fuller detail:

Don’t forget Alan Dershowitz… J.E.’s buddy and lawyer… good name for your pitch as he repped Claus von Bulow and a movie was made about that case… title was Reversal of Fortune. We all suspect Alan is a pedo and tho no proof of that, you probably met him when he was hanging out with JE.

As I noted at the time, “You probably met him” indicates that this is a name that Churcher is speculatively proposing, rather than someone Roberts Guiffre had herself previously named to her. Even though this is Churcher providing informal advice rather than working on a new story, the implications of a journalist advising a source about whom they might derive benefit from accusing are troubling.

The fuller exchange is important additional context for Churcher’s explanation to Lyons. As regards the term “pedo”, Churcher tells Lyons “I’ve never heard the word”, but it appears that Roberts Giuffre herself used it when she emailed Churcher. Therefore Churcher was aware of the word, and even if it’s not part of her usual vocabulary it would be natural to adopt the terminology of her correspondent. The 2011 reply to Roberts Guiffre and the conversation with Lyons also both include mention of Dershowitz’s representation of Claus von Bülow.

Churcher goes on to suggest that the allegation against Dershowitz had been made up by “Brad Edwards and his team”, and that “If I were Alan, I wouldn’t bother so much with it”.

As regards Churcher’s claim that it is possible to “change emails”, she also tells Lyons “you can edit emails. I wanted to try it, and you can do it”. It’s not clear what she is getting at here – certainly, it’s possible to edit the text of an email if you are forwarding it to someone else, because the text then becomes part of a new email. But the original remains unchanged. And why doesn’t she have a copy of what she wrote in her “Sent” folder? An alternative is that the email was completely fabricated, which Churcher hints at by saying “I’m not positive I remember this email”.

The interviews between Churcher and Roberts Guiffre formed the basis for the 2011 Mail on Sunday splash “Prince Andrew and the 17-year-old girl his sex offender friend flew to Britain to meet him“, which became the focus of renewed interest last year. According to Churcher:

It was quite a falling out with them after I wrote that story because they are part of the British establishment, and they ran it without thinking about the fact that the editor-in-chief is a friend of the royal family’s. I got laid off.

This would appear to be a reference to Geordie Greig, who is related to royal courtiers. However, Greig did not become editor of the MoS until 2012, some months after Churcher’s article was published.

Tom Newton Dunn and “Hijacked Labour”: Still No Answers One Year On

On Twitter, three left-wing journalists (Ash Sarkar, Owen Jones and Ellie Mae O’Hagan) remonstrate with former Sun political editor Tom Newton Dunn over his promotion a year ago of a bizarre conspiracy chart called “Hijacked Labour”:

Newton Dunn responded to the above (also highlighted by others as “Tom Newton Dunn Day”) by blocking Jones; some journalists apparently consider Jones’s subsequent complaint about this reaction to be more worthy of commentary than Newton Dunn’s continuing failure to account for how the “Hijacked Labour” story came to be published or why it was then deleted. To date, Newton Dunn’s only public comments on the matter are correctives to the claim that he promoted a neo-Nazi website, rather than a site that included some neo-Nazi sources.

The chart, as I have mentioned before, was self-evidently a crank effusion that made connections that were either banal, inexplicable or simply wrong (a point overshadowed by revulsion at its use of far-right sources). One link led to the actor Matt Berry, while a bizarre emphasis was placed on the supposed influence of the deceased French philosophers Michel Foucault, Jean-François Lyotard and Jacques Derrida. At least one person named on the chart complained about their inclusion: this was a doctor named David Rouse, who stated that “I quit labour the moment Corbyn got in as I disagree with his politics. So looks like they need to try and get their facts right”. The Sun published only a low-resolution blurry screenshot, I suspect because Newton Dunn knew that it could not withstand scrutiny.

Newton Dunn’s story was headlined “Ex-British intelligence officers say Jeremy Corbyn is at the centre of a hard-left extremist network”. Presented as leading the supposed group of officers was one “Mark Bles”, the pen-name of a former SAS soldier turned author named Mark Whitcombe-Power. IPSO rejected a complaint that an SAS soldier should not be described as an “intelligence officer”, on the grounds that members of the unit may undertake surveillance work, and the press regulator also judged that the word “say” distanced the paper from the claims being made. Crucially, the Sun was not asked by IPSO to substantiate the existence of “intelligence officers” in the plural, even though that central detail is presented as established fact in the headline.

However, although it’s tempting to see secretive propaganda outfits lurking behind the scenes, one would hope that an operation connected to intelligence agencies would have done a more competent job. The truth is shabbier. Prior to the appearance of the “Hijacked Labour” website, a previous version of the same chart was hosted at a site called “Traitors’ Chart”. The repackaging occurred days before Newton Dunn’s story was published, and it was only with the Sun story that Bles became publicly associated with the project. As such, it seems that his involvement from this point both obscures the chart’s actual provenance and gives it more credible pedigree. If Bles – retired and living in France – was induced to be the front-man in good faith, it would be very difficult for Newton Dunn to now give an explanation about what actually happened.

Clues to the true provenance of the chart are traced in Daniel Trilling’s Guardian piece linked to by Sarkar and Jones. There are also some details on a Twitter thread by a researcher named Steve Rose. His Tweets include a video with a distinctive voice-over that was created to publicise the “Traitors Chart” version of the chart.

On the one hand, the story is not going away. But on the other, as noted by another Twitter user, “What’s kind of amazing is that Tom Newton Dunn’s strategy of ‘just pretend/insist that it didn’t happen’ has actually been completely successful”.

Lin Wood “Paedophilia and Satanic Worship” Claim Promoted Online

Comment made on “business coach” entrepreneur radio show

A quote from Atlanta attorney L. Lin Wood:

So there is potentially a great awakening. The truth has to come out. I believe it will. I do not think that you can hide the truth. I do say it and I believe it, every lie will be revealed. This country’s going to be shocked when the find the truth about who’s been occupying the Oval Office for some periods of years. They’re going to be shocked at the level of pedophilia. They are going to be shocked at what I believe is going to be a revelation in terms of people who are engaged in satanic worship.

Wood made the comment during a radio interview a couple of weeks ago, and it has more recently been extracted from it and is now being passed around on social media.

In context, the above is simply a reflection of what passes for received wisdom within Lin’s Christian fundamentalist conspiracy milieu, but due to his current association with Sidney Powell and the pursuit of election fraud lawsuits his statement is being taken as an authoritative promise of shocking revelations from someone “in the know”. The reference to a “great awakening”, of course, evokes the QAnon conspiracy theory.

Wood (whose fondness for referring to Kamala Harris as “Cabala Harris” I noted previously) was speaking on a programme called the ThriveTime Show, which describes itself as a “Business Coach Program… founded by former United States Small Business Administration Entrepreneur of the Year and current member of the Forbes Coaches Council, Clay Clark.” Clark’s introduction referred to the “Satanic Luciferian Left”, and the episode’s webpage has a list of links to sites promoting election fraud claims. The episode itself is titled “BOMBSHELL VOTER FRAUD REVEALED!!! | LIN WOOD EXPOSES VOTER FRAUD AND SHARES HOW KYLE RITTENHOUSE IS OUT OF JAIL IN TIME FOR THANKSGIVING!!!”, and the “satanic worship” comment comes at about 40 minues in.

Clark and his ThiveTime Show associate “optometrist turned entrepreneur, Doctor Robert Zoellner” appear to be celebrities within the “motivational entrepreneur” / “business guru” subculture, with an impressive back-catalogue of guests ranging from Ken Blanchard and John Maxwell to Horst Schulze to Ken Auletta and many more besides (including a few pastors). Yet the show’s “business podcast” in recent weeks is a slew of conspiracy content about supposed voter fraud and Covid-19 vaccines. Among those featured is Charlie Ward, a British QAnon influencer.

There is also religious content, with Clark having an “urgent prophetic message for President Donald J. Trump” that he says he was told to convey by the late Kim Clement, a neo-Pentecostal evangelist whose 2007 claim that “Trump will become a trumpet” has since been taken as a prophecy of the Trump presidency (discussed further here).

Influencers promoting Wood’s “satanic worship” comment on social media include Boris Johnson’s former mistress Jennifer Arcuri; it is perhaps relevant here to note that the Digital Marketing Manager at her Hacker House company was Wesley Hall, a promoter the Hampstead Satanic Ritual Abuse hoax.