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

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Maajid Nawaz Denounces Observer Coverage of His Conspiracy Theory Tweets

From the Observer:

The prominent radio presenter and activist Maajid Nawaz, co-founder of a respected British anti-extremist thinktank and a one-time government adviser, has alarmed former admirers and academics with his interest in conspiracy theories about the lockdown and voter fraud in the US election on his Twitter account.

…Nawaz, who broadcasts on LBC in a lineup of other opinionated presenters from across the political spectrum…, denies that he has been drawn into conspiracy theory rhetoric and has threatened the Observer with legal action.

I previously noted Nawaz’s recourse to legal threats here. As is customary these days, he is also claiming to be the victim of “targeted harassment” at the hands of the Sunday newspaper, which he conflates with its sister paper, the daily Guardian. The article was by the Observer‘s arts and media correspondent and published in the TV and Radio section.

Nawaz has responded with a stream of aggrieved Tweets, and he has posted a screed on Facebook and on the website of the Quilliam think-tank’s journal, Perspectives. He has also accepted an interview request from the right-wing Turning Point UK group, stating that the Guardian is “fascist” and that “I’ll do interviews across the political spectrum”.

His argument is that as regards the US election,

I was predicting what Trump would do next and then commenting on his decisions without prejudice… I’ve not done anything but explain the constitutional procedures team Trump will take ahead of time (and been proven right) without openly taking sides on the merits of the fraud claims

This is blatant revisionism. For example, on 8 November he Tweeted “Look up what a SCIF is. Thank me later”. The plain meaning here can only be “Trump has been monitoring the election from a secure location and will soon reveal decisive evidence of fraud, after which everyone will thank me for my predictive insight”. Nawaz enthused over allegations put forward by the likes of Sidney Powell without ever referring to the many legal failures and debunkings that followed, and he even came up with a conspiracy theory of his own, involving a driver for Diane Feinstein who had been exposed as a Chinese spy (presented as a new story that was being suppressed, rather than old story from 2013), which he claimed was relevant because Feinstein’s husband was supposedly an “investor” in Dominion.

The Observer article also quotes Sunder Katwala, whose Tweets on Nawaz provide an exhaustive chronicle of Nawaz’s social media output. Nawaz has blocked him (as he has anyone who has ventured even mild criticism), but it is telling that he avoids making any reference to his forensic analysis.

Katwala has posted a comment on Facebook in response to Nawaz’s supposed “rebuttal”; given the ephemeral nature of the medium, I reproduce it below. It addresses Nawaz’s promotion of a Covid conspiracy theorist; his apparent enthusiasm for the idea that Mike Pompeo was timing his Tweets as some kind of “countdown”; and his suggestion that the Observer article was published because the Guardian wishes to discredit an ethnic-minority man of Muslim heritage who is critical of Islamic extremism:

The long account of lockdown verifies that The Observer account of the open letter to MI5 and the FBI is accurate. Its just that Mr Nawaz is proud of the work.

The account of the Covid tweets ignores The Observer’s (accurate) report of Mr Nawaz’s tweet about how he found Dr Thomas Binder’s claim that “almost everybody fell for the myth of a pandemic of a new corona killer virus”. Dr Binder is an anti-semite, a 9/11 truther, a Pearl Harbour truther, an Assad chemical weapons truther, and a believer that Bill Gates has a plot to make everybody take vaccines. While Mr Nawaz says that it was not his field to understand the Covid denial article he shared, it should be his field (as the founder of a counter-extremism think-tank) to spot if his source promotes every conspiracy theory under the sun. The account given of the Pompeo Countdown tweets is inaccurate and not credible. 2 of Mr Nawaz 3 tweets on this topic were not about China. Another says “right on cue, 30 minutes” tweet is clearly understood by followers to the about the QAnon-inspired countdown, as the replies to each of the three tweets show. On this, The Observer report is accurate and the response is inaccurate. The claim that the challenges to Nawaz spreading conspiracies are racially motivated are really a sad pile of nonsense of the kind that Mr Nawaz would decry as identity politics if anyone else pulled this OJ Simple style stunt of seeking impunity based on ethnicity.

See also Zelo Street here.

Katwala also notes that Qulliam’s Director of Policy David Toube has left the think-tank over Nawaz’s promotion of conspiracy websites.