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A Note on Douglas Murray’s Attack on Byline Times

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

Some Notes on Jan Hieronimko, The Polish Journalist Who Acted in Carl Dreyer’s Vampyr

A while ago I was watching the Carl Dreyer film Vampyr (1932), and I was intrigued by the participation of a man billed as Jan Hieronimko, who played an evil village doctor who assists the vampire but comes to a floury end suffocated in a mill. This was Hieronimko’s only acting credit, having been spotted for the role by Dreyer’s casting assistant, reportedly on the Paris metro. According to the Eureka! Blu-Ray commentary by Tony Rayns, Hieronimko was an academic, but there aren’t many details about him online beyond his dates on the IMDB: born in Warsaw 1863, died Paris 1942. Now, after a bit of Googling and running some passages of Polish through Google Translate, I have some extra information.

First, Hieronimko’s birth name was apparently Hieronim Kohn, although there two alternative spellings, of Hieronim Kon and Hieronim Cohn. Hieronimko was a nom de plume he used as a journalist, which then formed the basis for Jan Hieronimko as his proper name. However, by the time he died he was using the name Jérôme Hieronimko – “Jérôme” of course being the Francophone version of Hieronymus.

Some of Hieronimko’s journalism can be found in scans of old Polish-language newspapers. He was a correspondent for Robotnik, but he also contributed to other papers, one of which introduces him as having relocated to Paris in 1905 and joined a university faculty. A genealogy website has uploaded his funeral notification, which describes him as follows:

Homme de Lettres
Président de l’Assistance aux Prisonniers Polonais en France
Commandeur de l’Ordre de Polonia Restituta
Officier de la Légion d’Honneur

He died on 26 June, which was the month in which Paris’s Jews were ordered to wear the yellow star prior to deportation, although perhaps Hieronimko’s “Kohn” origins were unknown to the Nazi occupiers. He was buried in Montmorency cemetery. He discussed his work with Polish prisoners here in 1937.

More details about Hieronimko are apparently available in Volume 3 of a reference work called Słownik biograficzny działaczy polskiego ruchu robotniczego (Biographic Dictionary of Activists in the Polish Labour Movement), in an entry by Alicja Pacholczykowa. However, as noted by article in the journal Przegląd polonijny (Volume 27 2001), Pacholczykowa confused Dreyer with Julien Duvivier and was under the impression that the film was called Professeur Vampire. Google Books Snippet view provides only glimpses of these sources, otherwise I would provide fuller references.

A further interesting detail from the funeral notice is that Hieronimko’s son-in-law was named André Capagorry. This is the name of a post-war colonial administrator in French Africa, who was the last governor of Réunion (where he died in retirement in 1981). Apparently he had a Polish wife, so it is likely that this is the same person (1). Unfortunately, his wife is unidentified other than as “Mme Capagorry”, although a 1958 notice in Bulletin officiel des annonces civiles et commerciales (again via Google Books) refers to

Nomination , en qualité de gérante , de ‘ Mme CAPAGORRY , née STANKIEWICZ ( Jeanne – Angèle )

Perhaps this is someone else, but two Polish Madame Capagorrys seems unlikely. Presumably she switched “Kohn” for “Stankiewicz” for survival reasons, just as her father had adopted a form of his given name as his new surname.

There was a Hieronim Cohn Publishing House in Warsaw in the 1890s and 1900s, specialising in Yiddish translations into Polish. I haven’t been able to discover if this was also associated with Hieronimko.


1. In French Congo, the couple owned a lowland gorilla named Mo Koundje, also known as Mok, who was eventually sold to London Zoo and whose taxidermy mount is now in Leeds.

Quilliam Foundation Closes

An announcement from Maajid Nawaz:

Due to the hardship of maintaining a non-profit during Covid lockdowns, we took the tough decision to close Quilliam down for good. This was finalised today. A huge thank you to all those who supported us over the years. We are now looking forward to a new post-covid future

The Quilliam Foundation website and social media presences have been removed, and Nawaz has also deleted his archive of Tweets, even though his Twitter feed is his personal account. Consequently, anyone wanting to review his commentary on the 2020 US election will have to be content with quotes preserved elsewhere.

Despite Quilliam’s former prominence – its reports formed the basis for public discussions on topics relating to Islamic extremism and “grooming gangs”, and it famously facilitated Tommy Robinson’s departure from the English Defence League – its closure has not received much media attention, with only the critical Middle East Eye writing it up so far. However, the journalist Medhi Hasan noted its passing on Twitter, and raised a couple of questions:

Question 1: where did the 3 million dollars or so that the SPLC in 2018 paid Quilliam and Nawaz go?

Question 2: why has Nawaz deleted all his tweets including his recent series of tweets and retweets flirting with QAnon-style, pro-Trump election conspiracies?

The payout, which was actually from the SPLC”s insurers, was a settlement in relation to a libel action after the SPLC described Nawaz as an “anti-Muslim extremist”. According to the SPLC statement, dated June 2018. it had agreed to make amends by paying “$3.375 million to Mr. Nawaz and Quilliam to fund their work to fight anti-Muslim bigotry and extremism”.

In January, Nawaz referred to this incident, and to others where he had secured settlements and media apologies over mischaracterisations, as a warning to critics that “I don’t do fail” when it comes to protecting his reputation. This, though, did not deter the Observer, which at the end of the month ran an article titled “LBC’s Maajid Nawaz’s fascination with conspiracies raises alarm”. Nawaz declared the article to be “targeted harassment”, although legal action has not been forthcoming. The reference in the headline to LBC rather than to Quilliam shows that Nawaz is now primarily a talk radio celebrity, and as such he may have outgrown the need for a think-tank vehicle.

The question about money is also pertinent to a tribunal case brought by a former employee, who was told in March 2019 that Quilliam “was unable to pay her as it had run out of funds”. The employee was awarded several months of unpaid wages, and her eventual redundancy was ruled to have been “procedurally unfair”. Think tanks of course tend to employ individuals who have an ideological affinity with their aims, and employee commitment to the cause can be taken advantage of – I am aware of a similar situation with a different “anti-Islamist” group that occurred a few years ago.