Two Christian Right Prayer Rallies Coming to Washington, D.C. on 26 September

Franklin Graham to lead “Washington Prayer March” at Lincoln Memorial while his sister Anne Graham Lotz to open a “Day of Prayer and Repentance” on the National Mall

From the website of the Washington Prayer March 2020:

Join Franklin Graham For A Prayer March In Our Nation’s Capital

“America is in trouble. Our communities are hurting, our people are divided, and there’s fear and uncertainty all around us. Let’s join together and do the most important thing: pray!”

– Franklin Graham

The Washington Prayer March 2020 event is a dedicated prayer march that is focused solely on asking God to heal our land. It is not a protest or political event, and we are asking participants to not bring signs in support of any candidate or party.

It is hard to take this “non-political” claim at face value: just a few weeks ago, Graham provided an opening prayer at the GOP Convention, and his social media output makes it very clear that he is an enthusiast for Donald Trump and all his works (1). While Billy Graham successfully positioned himself as a national figure (disarming the media) Franklin Graham’s horizons are circumscribed by the values and political priorities of the Christian Right, although he’s careful to present himself as a generic evangelical who is not tied to particular schemes regarding the End Times or beliefs about the activities of demons and such.

The event is scheduled for Saturday 26 September between 12 noon and 2 pm at the Lincoln Memorial, which is interesting given that a day-long Christian Right rally will taking place at the same time on the far side of the Washington Monument in the National Mall. This event, called “The Return: National and Global Day of Prayer and Repentance“, describes itself thus:

In the book of Joel, the prophet recognized that the Day of Judgment by God was at hand. He then called for a holy convocation (a solemn assembly) of all people and their leaders to repentance. The Bible gives many examples of solemn assemblies, but its main focus is a special time allotted for the repentence from sin(s) that may invite the judgment of God upon the nation. …The last time our nation was called to a solemn assembly was by Abraham Lincoln. We are long overdue for a time of repentance before God.

In contrast to the Franklin Graham event, “The Return” features an extensive list of Christian Right  and conservative celebrities, including Graham’s sister Anne Graham Lotz as one of the opening guests.

Lotz will appear alongside Johnathan Cahn, the author of several very popular books in which he has claimed that his Jewish heritage gives him special insight into “mysteries” encoded in the Bible that relate to current affairs – thus Hilary Clinton is mystically linked to Jezebel, while Donald Trump is a modern counterpart to the Israelite King Jehu.

The “Faith Leaders” guiding the event include Keven and Sam Sorbo, Pat Boone, E.W. Jackson and William “Jerry” Boykin, although top billing surprisingly goes to “J. Thomas Smith Esq.”, a lesser-known figure who has served as “a Vice-President of Men For Nations, the worldwide ministry of Dick Simmons”. The many participants also include Michele Bachmann and “Congressman Michael Cloud, Judge Vance Day, Governor Huckabee, Ralph Drollinger”, as well as Frank Gaffney and Stephen Strang, owner of the neo-Pentecostal Charisma media operation and the author of God and Donald Trump, which was brandished by Trump himself at Davos in 2018.

Footnote

1. Many people have had fun with the contrast between Graham’s censure of Bill Clinton over his affair with Monica Lewinsky (“If [Clinton] will lie to or mislead his wife… what will prevent him from doing the same to the American public?”) and his willingness to shrug off Trump’s transactional sex with the pornographic actress Stormy Daniels (“nobody’s business”). In 2013, Trump was among the figures who appeared in a photo with Billy Graham to celebrate the evangelist’s 95th birthday, alongside the the likes of Sarah Palin and Rupert Murdoch. One commentator suggested that Graham looked less than happy about being “a voiceless prop called upon to lend a sheen of respectability” to such people.

A Note on Companies House Reform

From a UK Government press release:

The UK’s register of company information will be reformed to clamp down on fraud and money laundering, the government has announced today (Friday 18 September).

Under the plans, directors will not be able to be appointed until their identity has been verified by Companies House.

The changes aim to increase the reliability of the data showing who is behind each company so that businesses have greater assurance when they are entering transactions with other companies, such as when small businesses are consulting the register to research potential suppliers and partners.

This a welcome reform – there is a general assumption that the register makes businesses and directors accountable, when it does nothing of the sort. Back in 2017 the accounting academic Prem Sikka noted that

Transparency Intentional investigated 52 large scale global corruption and money laundering cases involving £80bn and found that some 766 UK corporations were involved. Forming companies with fictitious shareholders/directors and non-existent addresses is all too easy.

Italian Mafia registered companies in the UK and gave officers name as “the Chicken Thief” resident at “Street of the 40 Thieves” in the town of Ali Babba”. Companies House accepted the documentation and government confirmed that it took “no action”.

As well as fictitious identities, the register has also failed to prevent identity theft: in 2018 the name of Esther McVey MP was fraudulently registered to a company called “Loyal Scots”, which then became the basis for a bogus “gotcha” published on Skwawkbox. For some reason, the left-wing website showed no interest in the real scandal they had stumbled on, which was that Companies House is not fit for purpose. McVey went on to make the subject an issue of particular concern to her, stating a few months later that “It is all well having a register, but it seems there is no compliance activity so what confidence can the public have in what appears on the register?”

There is still some other problems, though, that continue to undermine the credibility of Companies House and the accountability of British business. I discussed these previously here, after the then Minister for Small Business Andrew Griffiths (prior to his disgrace in a sex scandal) promised that “the government will come down hard on people who knowingly break the law and file false information on the company registry”. The only example Griffiths had was of a man who had filed false information quite openly to prove a point.

As regards director names, if you click on the name of a company director you are supposed to be able to see their other appointments, both current and going back a few years. However, quite often they are not cross-referenced in this way, particularly if a director used a different address or gave a different version of their own name (e.g. adding or leaving off a given name element). This linkage failure may happen quite innocently, but it benefits bad actors who want to conceal particular associations and activities.

And as regards addresses, a false address does not have to be a complete fabrication. One trick is to provide a service address where a lot of companies are properly registered; another is to find a genuine office block and give that location but leave off a specific suite number or floor number. A third strategy is to provide a genuine address, but then move away without submitting updated details. If the fraud is not completely blatant anyone caught out will get away with it by claiming that there has been some innocent error or oversight.

The upshot is that a director with business debts or some other problem can disappear quite easily – and if they have a common name they can create a new company with a new service address without there being any evident connection with a past business failure.

A Note on Li-Meng Yan and Social Media

From Mail Online:

Twitter has suspended the account of a Chinese virologist who has publicly claimed that COVID-19 was developed in a Wuhan laboratory.

Li-Meng Yan’s account was taken down on Tuesday after she accused China of intentionally manufacturing and releasing COVID-19.

…In an interview with Fox News’ Tucker Carlson on Tuesday night, Yan claimed she was suspended because ‘they don’t want the people to know this truth’.

…After the segment aired, the Fox News show also accused Facebook of censorship after saying they had been blocked from sharing the interview segment on the social media platform.

A video of the interview segment posted on the Tucker Carlson Tonight show’s page now comes with a warning that reads: ‘False Information. This post repeats information about COVID-19 that independent fact-checkers say is false.’

l discussed Yan and her claims yesterday. Currently, Twitter is flooded with expressions of support for the former Hong Kong University research fellow, with many users taking the view that her Twitter suspension (as @LiMengYan119) proves the strength of her case. Some of these users have re-uploaded her media appearances, and there’s even a new account in her name (@li_meng_yan), which is either impersonation or a ban evasion.

It is possible that Yan’s account has been suspended as part of Twitter’s Canute-like efforts against misinformation; however, there may be another reason, such as inauthentic behaviour designed to boost the account’s prominence – given that Yan is under the guidance of Steve Bannon, this is not a far-fetched suggestion.

As regards the Carlson interview, this has been flagged by Facebook rather than blocked – anyone using the platform can view it, but they must click a “See Video” button first. This button sometimes appears over the video and sometimes under it (presumably depending on the platform being used) – in the latter position, it can be cropped off screenshots to give a false impression of censorship. Facebook users are also invited to click on a “See Why” button to find our why the interview has been flagged – this brings up links to Factcheck.org and USA Today debunking claims that the coronavirus was bioengineered. This is less than ideal, though: Yan claims to have new information, and so a flag based on older sources gives an impression that the warning serves to re-enforce a consensus rather than address misinformation.

Carlson, as one would expect, claims that this is censorship at the behest of the Chinese government. This is unlikely – there is plenty of material on Twitter and Facebook that the Chinese Communist Party must find objectionable, and Yan’s purported “evidence” has been dismissed by scientists (1). The one thing that really has been artificially engineered is Yan’s sudden media prominence, and social media owners are pushing back against this kind of manipulation as the US election draws close.

Footnote

1. Yesterday, I noted a Twitter thread by Kristian G. Andersen of the Department of Immunology and Microbiology at Scripps Research, as well critical accounts of Yan’s claims published in the Daily Beast (“Steve Bannon Is Behind Bogus Study That China Created COVID”) and Newsweek (“Fact-check: Does a New Study Give Evidence that the Coronavirus Was Made In a Lab?”). There are also pieces in Forbes (“‘Whistleblower’ Claiming China Created Covid-19 Coronavirus Has Ties To Steve Bannon”) and the New York Times (“Actually, a Chinese Virologist Didn’t Prove That Covid-19 Was Man-Made”), as well as a post by Alex Berezow at the American Council on Science and Health (“COVID: No, Coronavirus Wasn’t Created In A Laboratory. Genetics Shows Why”). Among conservatives, Jim Geraghty at the National Review advises “skepticism”, but adds the banal point that her lack of evidence doesn’t prove the virus might not be manipulated in some way.

The Awful Covid Disclosures of Li-Meng Yan: Steve Bannon Associate Makes “Bioweapon” Allegation

(Expanded)

From Fox News, July:

A Hong Kong virologist who fled to the U.S. earlier this year told “Bill Hemmer Reports” in an exclusive interview Monday that lives could have been saved if the Chinese government hadn’t censored her work.

…[Li-Ming] Yan exclusively told Fox News Digital last week that she believes the Chinese government knew about the novel coronavirus well before acknowledging the outbreak publicly. She also claimed her supervisors, renowned as some of the top experts in the field, ignored research she was doing at the onset of the pandemic that she believes could have saved lives.

From Fox News, September:

The Chinese government intentionally manufactured and released the COVID-19 virus that led to mass shutdowns and deaths across the world, a top virologist and whistleblower told Fox News host Tucker Carlson on Tuesday.

Carlson specifically asked Dr. Li-Meng Yan whether she believed the Chinese Communist Party released the virus “on purpose.” “Yes, of course, it’s intentionally,” she responded on “Tucker Carlson Tonight.”

Yan said more evidence would be released but pointed to her own high-ranking position at a World Health Organization reference lab as a reason to trust her allegation.

The video of the interview shows Yan claiming that the coronavirus is like a “cow, with a deer’s head, rabbit’s ears, and a monkey’s hands” – in other words, SARS-CoV-2 is such a monstrous anomaly that human origins should be obvious immediately to any scientist working on it. So how come no-one else has drawn attention to the same evidence? And why didn’t she mention it in July, instead of confining herself to a less sensational claim about transmission? In August, the Mail on Sunday reported only that Yan “fears the disease may have been created on purpose”, rather than that she had definite proof.

On the first point, Yan alleges that scientists are in fact all in the know, but are keeping quiet due to the global influence of the Chinese Communist Party (1). And on the second, it appears that Yan was making her “bioweapon” allegation within the milieu of Steve Bannon’s alternative media “War Room”, but for some reason was holding back when speaking to Fox. The current round of media interest derives from a new paper, where she gives her current affiliation as “Rule of Law Society & Rule of Law Foundation”. As has been noted elsewhere, Bannon created both organisations in cooperation with Guo Wengui, a US-based Chinese billionaire who has been accused of corruption by the Chinese authorities. Guo also runs a website called G-News, and in June he and Bannon announced the creation of a Chinese “government-in-exile”, under the name “New Federal State of China”. Both G-News and promotional material for the “New Federal State” have been amplifying Yan’s claims (2).

The Sun followed up on the Mail on Sunday profile with a piece that described Yan as a “heroic whistleblower”, and last week the paper’s headline was shown when she made an appearance on Loose Women, a light-entertainment chat-show on ITV. Feeding back to the US, this was then reported in the New York Post ahead of her interview with Carlson.

As regards her credentials, Yan does have an academic publication history, but it is not extensive and it’s impossible to identify what exactly her contribution was to each co-authored item. One piece, published in the Lancet in March, was “correspondence” rather than a peer-reviewed article. Hong Kong University denies she worked on human-to-human transmission, and describes her as a former “post-doctoral fellow”rather than a “top virologist” with a “high-ranking position”.

The paper itself (“Unusual Features of the SARS-CoV-2 Genome Suggesting Sophisticated Laboratory Modification Rather Than Natural Evolution and Delineation of Its Probable Synthetic Route”) has simply been uploaded to Zenodo rather than published through academic processes; it is being referred to as “the Yan Report”, although three “Rule of Law Society” co-authors are also listed (Shu Kang, Jie Guan and Shanchang Hu). It has not been well-received by scientists; on Twitter, Kristian G. Andersen, from the Department of Immunology and Microbiology at Scripps Research, describes it as “non-scientific and false – cherry picking data and ignoring data disproving their hypotheses”.

He explains:

It’s using technical language that is impossible to decode for non-experts – poppycock dressed up as ‘science’. [1]

– “SARS-CoV-2 was created using ZC45 and/or ZXC21 bat coronaviruses”.

This simply can’t be true – there are more than 3,500 nucleotide differences between SARS-CoV-2 and these viruses. [2]

– The report ignores ALL recent coronavirus data from pangolins and bats.

Had this been included, the data would have invalidated all the ‘mysterious’ homology findings in the report as they relate to matrix protein, Orf8, receptor binding domain, etc. [3]

“Smoking gun” in the form of restriction sites.

These sites are not unique, are all present in genomes ignored by the authors (e.g., RaTG13), and are expected to be present by random chance. None of these would have been used for cloning. [4]

– Blueprint for how to make SARS-CoV-2.

Instead of following the absurd ‘recipe’ for creating SARS-CoV-2 described in the report, here’s how one could actually do it: [Link] [5]

– “Proximal Origin” paper authors are conflicted.

Not correct – my lab has never received funding from China and we have no collaborations with Chinese investigators. I have no financial interests in China. All our analyses are scientific and unbiased. [6]

Newsweek has similarly dismissive quotes from scientists, and it notes the paper’s “conspiratorial tone”:

To back up their assertion that authors of a Nature Medicine article had undisclosed conflicts of interest, they point to an announcement of an award given by China to Dr. Ian Lipkin, an epidemiologist at Columbia, for his work on the country’s disease preparedness after the first SARS outbreak. The other reference links to a scientist’s C.V.

Andersen also draws attention to a photograph that shows Rudy Giuliani posing with an associate of Guo who goes by the name of Lude, while Bannon and Yan appear behind them in a mirror. This photo was noted by J. Michael Waller a few days previously, as evidence against Yan’s claim to be “in hiding”. Rather, “she is going around with Guo Wengui’s sidekicks Lude and Bannon, who are on an image-salvaging operation to make themselves look connected to Trump”.

(Name variations: Limeng Yan; Yan Limeng; Yan Li-Meng; 闫丽梦; 閆麗夢)

Footnotes

1. Some of Yan’s supporters have referred to an article that appeared in the Daily Telegraph in June, which reported three scientists as claiming that the virus had “fingerprints” that were “indicative of purposive manipulation”. These were quotes from an article that at the time had not been published, although the Telegraph made up for this by referring to an earlier peer-reviewed article by the same authors and by securing an endorsement from former MI6 head Richard Dearlove, thus giving a spurious “intelligence” imprimatur. The article did subsequently appear, but it was not peer reviewed – indeed, the Telegraph report indicates that it consists of material that had had to be excised from the earlier paper following the peer-review process. However, it should be noted that the article – by Birger Sørensen, Angus Dalgleish and Andres Susrud – refers specifically to “the biochemistry of the Spike”. One wonders why scientists who were looking for evidence of human manipulation did not anticipate Yan’s far broader claims.

2. These promotional materials are branded to an organisation called “Himalaya”, which is active in several countries. Twitter accounts linked to Himalaya show street advertising in London (as well as an advert in the Evening Standard), as well as a protest event in Germany where participants waved a blue flag and held a banner bearing Yan’s face. There have even been leaflets promoting Yan’s claims delivered through people’s letterboxes: one was received by a resident of Kent named Chris McBride, who has uploaded images to Twitter (here and here). The leaflet describes Himalaya UK as a “social and economic entity that is established by warriors of the Whistleblower Movement, who devoted to pursue democracy, rule of law, and freedom”. Guo has also composed a song called “Take Down the CCP”; Bannon’s associate Raheem Kassam (who interviewed Yan a week before Carlson) can be seen promoting it here.

Daily Telegraph Runs “Cheese and Pizza Emojis as Secret Code” Story

From the UK Daily Telegraph:

Paedophiles using cheese and pizza emojis as secret code on social media

Cheese and pizza emojis are being used as a secret code by paedophiles to communicate on social media sites such as Instagram and Twitter, online safety groups have warned.

A group of more than 100 volunteer parents has banded together to hunt down and report accounts using the emoji to signal they are sharing sexualised images of children, in a bid to evade detection by the social media giants.

Members of the parents’ group told The Telegraph they often found such accounts sharing images of children taken in family settings such on beaches or gardens, which appeared to have been stolen from the parents’ social media profiles.

…The group of parents was started by India, a 27-year-old executive assistant from London, who asked the paper not to use her surname, and who stumbled across the child image accounts on social media.

Since then she has set up Twitter and Instagram pages, called ProtectPD, dedicated to naming accounts she finds sharing child images so her followers can report them en masse to the social media giants.

…India, who has had direct talks with officials at Instagram over the issue, said the accounts often signaled what they were doing by using cheese and pizza emojis, to represent ‘CP’ meaning ‘child porn’…

The story, by the paper’s social media correspondent, has been met with some incredulity. The story is not impossible, but the notion that banal symbols have a secret meaning that allows us to identify and expose malign actors is an old trope of urban myths, and there is a risk here that innocent people will find themselves falsely accused simply because they have used the emojis in their plain sense.

In this instance, there is also the particular context of “Pizzagate“, the conspiracy theory that has since largely folded into QAnon. Some social media users have expressed the opinion that the Telegraph has been taken in by a QAnon group, while QAnon supporters have cited the article as evidence proving their claims that elite abusers communicate openly via an extensive vocabulary of code words, some of which are Pizza-related. (1)

One problem with the story is that it is difficult to scrutinise the claims for ourselves. An individual or group claiming to have exclusive information that pertains to some topic of urgent public interest is always a tempting prospect for journalists, but more than once we’ve seen how the end result is flawed journalism that ends up promoting misinformation (the Sun‘s “Hijacked Labour” fiasco is a recent instance of this; some reports about Islamic extremism from about a decade ago are another). Did the journalist check out India’s identity and her claims to have 100 associates? Did he see screenshots of the emojis being used in the way claimed?

Bellingcat’s Nick Waters observes that:

The social media accounts of this group were set up in (wait for it) August 2020. Bit of a red flag.

It takes about 30 seconds of scrolling to find some absolutely insane stuff, for example implying Avicii [a Swedish musician who took his own life in 2018] was murdered for exposing child trafficking.

In contrast, though, India’s own account (now protected) goes back to 2009, when (if taken at face value) she would have been 16 years old (no direct link here as the trail may lead back to an unrelated individual).

Another concern is the nature of the research being undertaken. The story is careful to specify that the the group has uncovered the sexualising misuse of innocent images that were taken from legitimate social media accounts belonging to parents. But surely the nature of their project is very likely to lead to them accessing indecent and/or abuse images? Someone else who reviewed some of the group’s content before it was deleted from the internet suggests that it posted “images with details blurred”, which may indicate that it indeed found such images; but “research” is not a legal defence for accessing illegal images, let alone downloading them to add blurring. Further, she suggests that the group’s exposure activities may actually be making it easier to find such material (she asks: “What sort of idiot would publicise hashtags to an English speaking audience that are used in the Philippines that lead to illegal content?”).

Footnote

1. A New York Times article on the origins of Pizzagate from late 2016 notes that “A participant on 4chan connected the phrase ‘cheese pizza’ to pedophiles, who on chat boards use the initials “c.p.” to denote child pornography.” Of course, it is possible that code words as reported in the media then get taken up for real, although it seems an odd thing to do if the point is to communicate discreetly.

New Video-Sharing Site Amplifies Conspiracy Theories and Anti-Semitic Imagery

On Twitter, “national treasure” Maggie Oliver promotes an interview uploaded to a video-sharing site called “BrandNewTube”:

I’ve been asked to post the link to my interview with wonderful  @shaunattwood & @SoniaPoulton. It’s about two and a half hours in, a 20 minute interview. Here it is …x

Oliver is famous across Britain as a former officer who drew national attention to police inaction regarding “grooming gang” activities in Rochdale; she has since written a memoir and set up a foundation, and she is frequently referenced in the media, always in glowing terms – the Daily Mail calls her “the real angel of the north”.

As such, it is to lamented that she uses her position in public life repeatedly to promote actors within the conspiracy theory milieu, who get far more out of the association than she does. I’ve noted previous instances here and here; the link to Attwood and Poulton is not new, but this latest Tweet is of particular concern due to the platform involved. Here’s the “BrandNewTube” landing page:

As can be seen, the site amplifies David Icke, and there is also explicit anti-Semitic imagery, in the form of some sort of demon with a Star of David for a face holding a globe of the world in its claw. The “Featured video” (in this instance amplifying a fringe far-right group) rotates when the page is refreshed, but the four images above it are static. It’s not clear if this is because they link to the most popular videos or if the site is deliberately advertising them for some reason.

“BrandNewTube” was registered in May; ownership is opaque, although Whois shows the registrant is based in Greater Manchester. A list of “dedicated content” channels and blue tick symbols give the impression that uploaders include Dave Chappelle and Russell Brand, but it is Attwood’s material that dominates, with titles such as “Maxwell & Maddie McCann”. As shown in the screenshot, on 28 August he held a live-stream with David Icke – this was one day before yesterday’s “Unite for Freedom” Covid-19 conspiracy rally in Trafalgar Square, which has been widely reported  (e.g. here and here) in the media and at which Icke spoke (I previewed other speakers here).

BBC Broadcasts Carl Beech Documentary

A documentary on the BBC iplayer:

The Unbelievable Story of Carl Beech

Directed by critically acclaimed film-maker Vanessa Engle, this documentary tells the jaw-dropping story of Carl Beech, a former nurse from Gloucester who claimed he had been sexually abused by a group of prominent men in the 1970s and 80s.

The scandal becomes front-page news in 2014 when Beech, better known by his pseudonym Nick, goes public with his incredible allegations, triggering a £2 million police investigation. The film features exclusive interviews with many of the people most closely involved.

The hour-long documentary, which went out last night on BBC 2, primarily takes a “human interest” approach, and although some of the interview material and photos are interesting and occasionally poignant the overall result was superficial and unsatisfying; the subject really needs extensive forensic treatment via a multi-part series if it is to be unpacked and analysed properly. Interviewees include, among others, Beech’s ex-wife Dawn Beech, Lord Bramall’s son Nicolas Bramall, Leon Brittan’s widow Diana Brittan, Exaro‘s Mark Conrad and Sir Richard Henriques, who produced a scathing review of the police following the collapse of Operation Midland, the “VIP abuse and murder” investigation that Beech’s cruel hoax set into motion.

There is also input from Joan Harborne, the ex-wife of Beech’s deceased step-father Raymond Beech, and their daughter Heather, who would have been Carl Beech’s step-sister (Beech was born Carl Gass, but took his step-father’s surname). Ray Beech was the first person whom Carl Beech accused of “historic” sex abuse, and Dawn Beech believes that this allegation at least was genuine. However, Harborne and Heather are adamant that this is not the case, and a PA journalist named Tom Wilkinson adds that Carl had employed a private investigator to find out whether Ray Beech was still alive before he first went to police in 2012 – indicating that he made efforts to ensure Ray was no longer around to defend himself before he made his first allegations. (1)

The documentary was reported in the media ahead of broadcast, and an item in The Times (2) includes one particularly striking detail:

[Mark] Conrad talks about the long period of depression he went through when Beech was found to be a liar. “I know that some of the police who were fooled have had breakdowns as well,” Engle says.

Conrad wrote the first articles that appeared in the Sunday People about Carl Beech (now deleted), who was at that time known in the media as “Nick”, and he is keen to stress Beech’s apparent credibility when asked about whether he was taken for a fool. Conrad and Exaro, the news agency he worked for, get an easy ride here, although Conrad’s self-pitying “depression” claim appears not have made the final cut. Conrad is not asked, for instance, why the Exaro Twitter account denounced doubters as “paedophiles” and “spooks”, or why the the site chose to keep readers in ignorance of the most extravagant elements of Beech’s account (such as an “attempted castration” allegation involving Harvey Proctor and Edward Heath). I discussed some of Conrad’s Tweets following Beech’s conviction here; perhaps the best therapy for his depression would be a round of apologies to those whom Exaro defamed.

The documentary is also notable for who is not featured. Carl Beech’s mother Charmain Beech did not contribute and is not mentioned by name, and Exaro‘s Mark Watts declined to participate. On Twitter, Watts explains his refusal in his usual way, which is to make conspiratorial insinuations of bad faith:

When Vanessa Engle approached me last year about BBC2 documentary on Carl Beech, due to air tonight, I said that the BBC could not be trusted on the subject given its own #VIPaedophile scandal, so I declined to take part [Link].

Other key figures who helped lift the lid a bit on the scandal of Britain’s #VIPaedophiles told me that they had said much the same to Vanessa Engle. Anyone with a genuine interest in truth realised that it would be foolish to participate in such a BBC documentary. [Link] …Engle told me that executive producer of the documentary on Carl Beech was Mike Radford. But she did not mention the other exec producer… The one who had produced a Panorama on #VIPaedophile claims after its editor said that it should adopt an anti-victim agenda [Link]

This “other exec producer” whom Watts for some reason declines to name is Alistair Jackson. The Panorama documentary he is referring to is discussed in the programme – it went out in October 2015 and Exaro launched extensive attacks on its makers’ personal integrity ahead of broadcast, which I logged at the time here. Watts has more recently put forward an argument that Beech’s conviction for perverting the course of justice is “unsafe”, for reasons I have unpicked here. Watts’s disdain for the BBC is hard to take from someone who used to have a show on the Iranian propaganda channel Press TV.

Meanwhile, there have also been criticisms that the documentary played down the involvement of Tom Watson MP, who infamously amplified Beech’s claim that Leon Brittan was “as close to evil as a human being could get” (I discussed the context for this here). Watson is mentioned only in passing, and the Daily Mail alleges that he was only included at all because “furious victims” had complained about his absence from the story, leading to a last-minute re-edit.

One aspect of the fiasco that deserves further consideration is the role of the media more broadly. A Joshi Herrmann noted in the Evening Post in March:

It’s also popular to blame Exaro News, the website that… sold [Beech’s] story to The Sunday People, ignoring how much the Westminster paedophile story was spread by news organisations like the BBC, LBC, the Daily Mirror and the Daily Mail.

Engle’s documentary includes a clip of Beech’s allegations featuring as the lead story on the BBC News; as the journalist Anne McElvoy now notes on Twitter, “we have not yet heard a full BBC explanation of how unsubstantiated claims could lead news bulletins and who thinks they were responsible”. If you’re wondering why placards reading “Westminster pedos are protected” were present at Saturday’s “soft-QAnon” “Save the Children” protests, this sort of thing is part of the explanation.

The credits were accompanied by a pop song apparently called “Would I Lie to You?”, and the general verdict on Twitter is that this was in poor taste. Another odd decision of Engle was to ask interviewees to read extracts from Beech’s writings, including his comically execrable poetry. Henriques declined the invitation.

Footnotes

(1) Other interviewees include Mike Pierce, who was inspired by Beech to create a sentimental exhibition called “Wall of Silence” (previously discussed here); Elly Hanson, a clinical psychologist who had dealings with Beech (discussed here); the criminologist Richard Hoskins (I noted his criticisms previously here); Bernice Andrews, a psychologist who was belatedly asked to assess Beech’s claims as Operation Midland floundered; and Anna-Lisa Andersson, Beech’s oblivious neighbour while he was on the run in Sweden (“my intuition said he was a good man, honest man who wanted to do his best”).

(2) The Times article also includes the following:

…after an 18-month investigation that cost £2.5 million and put huge stress on the accused men — Proctor lost his job and home — not a single arrest had been made. The allegations were completely fabricated. Last year Beech, who had been awarded more than £20,000 in compensation for non-existent injuries suffered in the alleged abuse, was tried and sentenced to 18 years in prison for offences including fraud and perverting the course of justice.

This gives the impression that Beech received compensation relating to Operation Midland, when in fact it resulted from his first complaint, made to Wiltshire Police in 2012. The point is clearer in the documentary, and it is significant: Beech originally accused Raymond Beech, Jimmy Savile and an unnamed “group”, and it is reasonable to assume that he mentioned Savile because he had correctly surmised that claims involving Savile would be subject to inadequate scrutiny and due diligence. This suggests a problem that is far more systemic than the fiasco of Operation Midland, as I noted here.

A Note on “Save the Children” Protests

From NBC News:

…On Saturday, more than 200 “Save the Children” events are scheduled to take place across the country, organized by a constellation of individuals and newly formed groups, according to an NBC News analysis of Facebook events.

…QAnon spent years on the fringes of the internet, with the theory evolving and often growing less specific. What was originally a conspiracy theory that centered on an anonymous internet poster has now become something of a catchall for a variety of beliefs about a hidden group of child abusers in positions of power.

…One group that formed in July, “Freedom for the Children,” has organized more than 60 rallies in 26 states and Canada, according to their website, where they accept donations. Until Wednesday, personal Facebook profiles for co-founders Bhairavi Shera and Tara Nicole seen by NBC News contained posts with conspiracy theories about Bill Gates, the coronavirus and QAnon’s precursor, pizzagate. By Thursday, Shera’s personal profile had been either removed or deleted, and Nicole deleted or made previous posts private.

According to the BBC’s Shayan Sardarizadeh, there was a crowd of 500 in London, and on Facebook he found footage from “Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newport, Huddersfield, Newcastle, Birmingham, Aberdeen and Dundee”. A video here shows that the London contingent eventually made its way to Buckingham Palace, where the crowd chanted “paedophiles” through the gate – to the delight of Prince Andrew’s accuser Virginia Guiffre, who Tweeted her thanks in response. One of the banners visible here reads “Westminster pedos are protected”, a reference to the various conspiracy theories that were heavily promoted in the tabloid press between 2014 and 2016, and which remain current despite the critical assessment of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse and the the conviction of the hoaxer Carl Beech.

Meanwhile, an Australian reporter named Cameron Wilson notes that events were “scheduled for Sydney, Brisbane, Perth and Melbourne”. He adds:

It’s complicated because Save Our Children isn’t a creation of QANon supporters, but they’re co-opting the movement (which is a lot more palatable than their usual “Satanic elite cabal” schtick)

A series of clips from a protest in Hollywood, uploaded by Left Coast Right Watch, can be viewed on Twitter starting here.

Some New Age activists apparently regard Donald Trump as a “light worker“, which dovetails with the central QAnon belief that Trump is about to expose VIP paedophiles and Satanists by announcing mass arrests of opponents and members of “the elite”. But to the dismay of veteran QAnon enthusiasts, many of the weekend’s protesters appear to have little interest in Trump and his populist nationalism; as one writes (screenshot here):

This shit was not organized by any Q outlet that we were aware of.  Just popped out of thin air?  These are not Q people. Zero red white and blue patriots in the crowd. Don’t fall for it!  They all  look like libtards ffs

As assessed by one Twitter user:

the tl;dr version is that QAnon used #SaveTheChildren to try to trick a bunch of new people into their ranks and redpill them into Trump supporters

they’re angry at the CA protests cause the lefties they roped in still hate Trump

The shift to phrases like “Save Our Children” or “Save the Children” started as a way to get around social media action against QAnon hashtags, but beyond being a handy logo is “Q” even needed any more for substantive content? The mass arrests have been continually postponed; Trump has now indicated that he knows little about the movement; he has sent well-wishes to Ghislaine Maxwell; and at this moment his re-election is far from certain.

The roots of the weekend’s protests are broader and deeper than QAnon, and perhaps it is more likely that the energy of QAnon will be assimilated into it rather than that QAnon will co-opt it.

UPDATE: In addition to the above, there was also a UK protest in Nottingham – the self-proclaimed “police whistleblower” Jon Wedger was in attendance and has put online a video, where he is shown talking to Louise Dickens and other activists. This particular event was billed as a “veterans’ march”, and at one point Wedger speaks with someone in military uniform. Another video of the event, apparently uploaded by Tommy Robinson’s “TR News”, shows at least one “Q” placard, along with banners alluding to “grooming” allegations and one stating “Children’s Lives Matter”.

Mail Online has assembled images from Nottingham and an account from social media. According to their write-up:

Giant crowds ignored social-distancing guidelines as they filled Old Market Square with banners claiming ‘Antifa protect pedos’ and ‘God bless Donald Trump’.

And one man was found holding a flag promoting the Werwolf Resistance – an alleged Neo Nazi group… 

Several men are also shown bearing a banner that reads “WHITELAW – We Kneel For No One”,  presumably meant to express contempt for the Black Lives Matter “take a knee” movement.

Covid-19: Anti-Vaxxers and Conspiracy Theorists To Gather at Trafalgar Square

From an advert doing the rounds on social media:

UNITE FOR FREEDOM
Mass Protest and March
Trafalgar Square, London
Saturday 29th August 2020 at 12:00

No More Lockdowns – No Social Distancing – No Masks
No Track and Trace – No Health Passports
No Mandatory Vaccinations No “New Normal”
Restore all human rights that have been violated

Top World Class Doctors and Nurses Speaking Out with Real Truth on Covid19 against GMC constraints!

Prof Dolores Cahil, Dr Adil, Senator Dr Scott Jensen, Dr Sherri Tenpenny, Dr Andrew Kaufman, Dr Eric Nepute, Dr Mikael Norway, Kate Shemirani, Dr Kevin Corbet, Piers Corbyn

Some of those listed above were at a similar event just last week, at which speakers not only denounced the wearing of masks as a public health measure against the spread of Covid-19 but also accused the police of protecting “VIP paedophiles” and covering up the mass murder of children in Satanic rituals.

Despite being “Top World Class Doctors and Nurses”, the speakers may not all be familiar to everyone, so here’s a quick overview:

Prof Dolores Cahill (to spell her name properly) chairs the right-wing Irish Freedom Party. In June it was reported in the Irish Times that she had

been asked to resign from a leading European Union scientific committee over online claims she made about the Covid-19 pandemic.

In an hour-long interview with a popular alt-right activist on May 10th, which has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times, Prof Dolores Cahill promised to “debunk the narrative” of the pandemic.

Lockdown and social distancing is not needed to stop the spread of the virus, she said. People who recover are then “immune for life” after 10 days and deaths and illnesses could have been prevented by extra vitamins, she claimed.

Her interviewer was one Dave Cullen, who goes by the name “Computing Forever”. Health Feedback has addressed her claims here.

Dr Adil – this is Mohammad Iqbal Adil (var. Mohammed Adil), a locum colorectal surgeon who apparently believes that the Covid-19 coronavirus cannot be detected using a nineteenth-century method for identifying microbial pathogens, and therefore its existence hasn’t been proven and any vaccine will be a “scam”. A recent online interview he conducted with the conspiracy theorist Anna Brees led to a row between Brees and David Icke protégé Richie Allen.

Dr Scott Jensen is a Minnesota State Senator who claims that Covid-19 deaths in the USA are being overhyped for financial reasons – his views where amplified by Laura Ingraham at Fox News, and were then taken up by Alex Jones. However, Jensen says he has no knowledge of Jones, and in April he was quoted as rejecting the idea that the coronavirus is being overhyped for electoral reasons. The Minnesota Reformer has more. His apparently somewhat limited scepticism, focusing on the methodology of epidemiology, is in contrast to the more extravagant claims and rhetoric of the other speakers.

Dr Sherri Tenpenny is “an American osteopath who claims that vaccines cause asthma, autism and auto-immune disorders”. In 2015 an intended tour of Australia was called off after venues cancelled on her. Her books include Saying No to Vaccines and Fowl! Bird Flu: It’s Not What You Think.

Dr Andrew Kaufman is a “natural healing consultant” who according to Reuters claims that any vaccine against Covid-19 would amount to genetic modification. He expounded on this in an interview with “independent researcher” Spiro Skouras.

Dr Eric Nepute is apparently a chiropractor, and he commends Schweppes tonic water to prevent and treat COVID-19, due to its quinine content. Snopes has a profile here.

Dr “Mikael Norway” is actually Mikael Nordfors, an enthusiast for alternative medicine who has authored a book on “Demosocracy”, described as “the new system in which liquid democracy solves the problems of corruption and slavery, where the new consciousness sets humans free from the modern society in which we do not belong.” The book “is a guide to a new world order in which the people actually decide together and live in a transhumanist garden of Eden.”

obscure; it’s possible that “Unite For Freedom” has garbled someone’s name so badly he or she cannot be identified.

Kate Shemirani goes by the name “Natual Nurse in a Toxic World”; as recently noted by the BBC:

A glance at what she posts on Facebook and Twitter reveals relentless attacks on Bill Gates, the wearing of masks and NHS staff, whom she calls criminals and liars for perpetuating the “hoax” that is the coronavirus.

But much of her content is about vaccines – this week she claimed the polio vaccine caused polio and had harmed and killed thousands.

Hope Not Hate adds:

in among the unfounded medical advice that she dispenses, Shemirani also teaches her followers about a vast, broader conspiracy: one that includes Satanic symbolism in music videos, the organised destruction of the atomic family, 9/11 as a false flag attack and large-scale sexual abuse of children by a global elite. Shemirani has also expressed her admiration for David Icke and condemned international organisations such as the United Nations and World Health Organisation as belonging to the New World Order.

She has also promoted 5G conspiricism, in conversation with Mark Steele.

Dr Kevin P. Corbett (to correct another speaker’s name) runs “KPC Research and Consultancy”. He has an MSc in Nursing and a PhD in Social Sciences, and like Adil he takes the view that there is no scientific proof for the existence of the virus. His website alleges “The Covid Nazification of the National Health Service”.

Piers Corbyn of course is the brother of the former Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. His foray into the science of pandemics is of a piece with his long-standing views on climate change.

The advert for the protest also includes some banner logos at the base. These are for “Stop New Normal”, the “Free People Alliance”, “Keep Britain Free”, “Save Our Rights UK”, “Collective Action Against Bill Gates” and “StandUpX”.

UPDATE (26 August): David Icke has now confirmed that he will also be speaking at the event

“Did [Insert Name Here] Infect Boris Johnson?”: Mail on Sunday Milks Old Theme With New Speculation

From Glen Owen at the Mail on Sunday:

Did Jeremy Corbyn’s Marxist henchman Seumas Milne infect Boris Johnson AND Dominic Cummings with coronavirus during Downing Street visit?

The Mail on Sunday has established that on the evening of March 16 – during the last days of his party leadership – Mr Corbyn visited Mr Johnson at No 10 with his most senior adviser, former Guardian journalist Seumas Milne.

Joining them in Mr Johnson’s cramped study, as they discussed the Government’s response to the epidemic and whether there should be a lockdown, was the Prime Minister’s aide [shurely “henchman”?], Dominic Cummings.

A few days after the meeting, Mr Milne developed a fever and a loss of taste and smell – symptoms of coronavirus – and went into self-isolation.

…A Downing Street source said it was ‘unclear how the Prime Minister had been infected’ and Mr Johnson ‘was not pointing the finger at Seumas’.

…A Downing Street spokesman declined to comment.

Well, of course the “Downing Street spokesman declined to comment” – what was there to add, given that the “Downing Street source” had already provided a quote and, we may suspect, further background details?  The Johnson–Corbyn meeting on 16 Match is a matter of public record (Daily Telegraph: “Boris Johnson meets with Jeremy Corbyn. A Labour Party spokesperson confirms that Mr Corbyn will be meeting with the Prime Minister this evening”), and the presence of Milne and Cummings can be taken as a given.

The Mail on Sunday article also makes passing references to Nadine Dorries and Michel Barnier as other possible sources of Johnson’s infection – and some readers may remember that the latter was the focus of an earlier version of the same story published back on 28 March, also co-written by Owen:

Did Michel Barnier infect Boris Johnson? The EU’s Brexit negotiator could be Downing Street’s ‘Patient Zero’ after Brussels meeting

…The Mail on Sunday has traced connections between those known to have the virus in an attempt to identify Downing Street’s possible ‘Patient Zero’ – the first person in a community to become infected.

And suspicion has fallen on a meeting in Brussels on March 5 between Mr Barnier and David Frost, the UK’s chief negotiator, which opened the first round of talks on a post-Brexit trade deal.

Both articles are incredibly stupid: we know that Johnson was sloppy when it came to taking precautions against infection (3 March: “I was at a hospital where there were a few coronavirus patients and I shook hands with everybody”), and his work and private life brought him into contact with dozens of people on a daily basis. The public figures identified by the Mail on Sunday as having met Johnson at official meetings in March represent just the tip of an iceberg of contacts. Dorries also features in the March article, but there’s no sign of Corbyn or Milne.

Perhaps the stories are not meant to be taken very seriously, but such a clownish parody of contact tracing risks misleading the public about how the virus spreads. And if I were a health or science hack at the paper I would be incredibly irritated to see the deputy political editor blundering so far outside of his lane. But it’s par for the course – as I’ve noted previously, over the past few months Owen has penned numerous articles promoting claims that Covid-19 escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, often including sensationalising distortions (e.g. here and here). It is possible that Owen’s articles even played a role in Donald Trump’s decision to defund coronavirus research, as I discussed here.

It is reasonable to assume that all Owen’s Covid-themed stories have relied heavily on “Downing Street sources”. But the return to the subject of who infected Johnson at this moment in time – apparently just to take a gratuitous pop at Corbyn and Milne – seems particularly egregious. Perhaps the headline’s reference to whether Milne was also the source of Dominic Cummings’s infection is meant to distract us from the question of whom Cummings may have infected when he travelled to Durham and visited Barnard Castle. Whatever the reason, though, this goes beyond client journalism, into the realm of gimp journalism.