Dan Wootton Threatens Legal Action After Police Investigation Ends

From Dan Wootton’s crowdfunder, last summer (emphasis added):

A hard left blog is on a deranged campaign of harassment designed to destroy me financially, mentally and professionally – but, with your help, they will not succeed.

…We must fight back against the current state of social media, where any allegation can be made in an attempt to get someone on the right cancelled and it is impossible to defend yourself. This is even the case where they have claimed that I have engaged in criminal activity when I have never been arrested, interviewed or charged in respect of any of the allegations against me.

As is well known, Byline Times had published allegations that Wootton had used pseudonyms to solicit intimate images of men in return for money, adding that his alleged targets believed “catfishing” to be the motive. Wootton denied having done anything criminal, although he kept to generalities: he never denied using the pseudonyms, and he referred to enigmatic “errors of judgement in the past”. He also denied other criminal allegations, which had the effect of conflating the Byline Times accusers with other individuals, against whom Wootton was able to raise issues of credibility.

Wootton’s reference to the lack of any police contact was confirmed by an article that appeared in the Independent in August:

Scotland Yard said: “In June 2023, the Metropolitan Police was contacted with regards to allegations of sexual offences committed by a man.

“Officers are assessing information to establish whether any criminal offence has taken place. There is no police investigation at this time.”

That changed in October, as was reported by the Guardian, the Mirror and Byline Times as a new development in the ongoing story. However, rather than update his supporters, Wootton – whose crowdfunder included a GB News screenshot bearing the words “No censorship” – instead reached for his lawyers. It seems that they cited the February 2022 Supreme Court ruling in Bloomberg LP v ZXC that, to quote a legal discussion here, “a person under a criminal investigation has a reasonable expectation of privacy in respect of information relating to that investigation”. The Guardian and the Mirror decided that it wasn’t worth pushing back and deleted their pieces, but Byline Times declined to do so. I discussed the issue in general terms here.

That police investigation has now ended:

In a statement, the Met said: “In June 2023, the Metropolitan police was contacted with regards to allegations of sexual offences committed by a man aged in his 40s.

“Officers assessed all information available to establish whether any criminal offence has taken place. An investigation was commenced into these allegations. All parties involved have now been advised that no further action will be taken. There were no arrests during the investigation.”

Wootton is signalling via Paul Staines’ Guido Fawkes website that he intends to take legal action, while Andy Wigmore has posted Tweet in which he appears to promise funding while denouncing “that little @peterjukes and woke leftie @Hardeep_Matharu and the rest of the extremists at @BylineTimes”. This is a bit much given that when in 2018 Wigmore filed a police complaint against Byline Media he posted a photograph of the online submission form as if that in and of itself had significance (no police action followed).

The Guido Fawkes website has also given some brief commentary about the case, inferring from the outcome that the police believe Wootton has been the subject of a “smear campaign”. That is a speculative extrapolation given how little detail Wootton has chosen to share about what happened, despite issuing a new statement.

The circumstances of ZXC are very different from the position in which Wootton found himself – and it should be noted that the “reasonable expectation of privacy” is merely a starting point, not a rule that reporters must now follow. There was no such “reasonable expectation” for instance when Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner were investigated in May 2022 after Richard Holden MP handed over misleading information to police in Durham. Of course, Wootton could alternatively complain of libel, but if he believes he has a case then it seems odd instead to launch a privacy action.

However, if Wootton does decide to press ahead, then I’m sure his testimony under oath about the pseudonyms “Martin Branning” and “Maria Joseph” will be of interest to many.

NB – the “catfishing” allegations should not be conflated with the reasons why Wootton disappeared from GB News, which I discussed here.

UPDATE: Press Gazette adds:

Dan Wootton is seeking damages, an apology and the retraction of articles from Byline Times after it reported on the fact he was being investigated by police.

Press Gazette understands that Wootton’s legal team is also writing to Carol Vorderman and former Newsnight presenter Emily Maitlis over statements made by them on Twitter.

The suspended GB News presenter is also considering legal action against other media outlets over articles published in October last year.

The notion of a “retraction” doesn’t seem coherent: even if Wootton successfully argues that the police investigation ought not to have been reported in October, that hardly applies now, when he himself has referred to end of it and the matter is common knowledge.

However, a letter from his lawyer Donal Blaney has apparently persuaded Maitlis to delete at least one old Tweet in which she noted the fact of the police investigation and what it was about, quoting Byline. Paul Staines frames this as “deleting conspiratorial tweets”, the strained suggestion being that the allegations against Wootton – including the “Martin Branning” alias – are conspiracy theories that no-one should have taken seriously. Wootton, of course, can now boast that a famous journalist has withdrawn a Tweet about the allegations.

Blaney previously ran the Young Britons Foundation (blogged here) and he has a long history of collaboration with Staines. This perhaps explains why Guido Fawkes is apparently doing free PR for Wootton.

Notes on Valdo Calocane and the Attorney General

From a press release from Victoria Prentis, the Attorney General:

Valdo Calocane’s crimes were horrific and have shocked a nation. He brutally killed three innocent people, and violently attacked three other victims. Their experiences will stay in our minds for a long time to come.

This was a case that evoked strong feelings amongst so many people and it was no surprise that I received so many referrals under the Unduly Lenient Sentence scheme to consider the Hospital Order handed to Calocane.

My duty as a Law Officer in considering whether sentences may be unduly lenient is to act independently of government, even when it is not easy or popular.

Having received detailed legal advice and considered the issues raised very carefully, I have concluded that the sentence imposed against Calocane, for the offences of manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility and attempted murder, was unduly lenient and will be referred to the Court of Appeal.

It seems odd to make a general reference to decisions that are “not easy or popular” when the specific decision being announced happens to be extremely popular and is doubtless also helpful to the government in projecting a “tough on crime” image. The case as to why “the CPS and the judge made the right decisions” has been laid out in some detail by Matthew Scott here; we don’t yet know the grounds on which Prentis has taken a different view.

On the face of it, Calocane’s conviction is in line with other cases: for instance, here’s one from last year:

A schizophrenic who killed and then dismembered a woman at her home has been sentenced to an indefinite hospital order.

Luke Deeley, 26, pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of June Fox-Roberts, 65, by reason of diminished responsibility.

Deeley attempted to clean up the scene and to change his appearance – evidence of rational decision-making to evade capture, comparable to Calocane’s planning before his attacks and his coherent phone calls to a relative afterwards.

Given that Prentis does not seem to be concerned about Deeley’s sentencing, it seems reasonable to infer that her interventon in the case of Calocane is media driven. The scale of his violence indeed “shocked a nation”; young photogenic victims were involved; and there is much public sympathy for the bitter complaints of bereaved relatives.  There has also been angry and opportunistic commentary on social media, such as this example from GB News’s Darren Grimes (1):

…It’s enough to make you wonder, what’s it going to take for the system to wake up and smell the coffee? When are we going to start putting the victims first, instead of tiptoeing around the perpetrators? It’s high time for a change, and it can’t come soon enough. This isn’t justice; it’s a joke. A cruel, heartless verdict for those who’ve already suffered enough.

Faced with this sort of thing, it would not have been “easy or popular” for Prentice to have backed the trial judge.

The allegedly “unduly lenient” sentencing is tied up with the fact that Calocane was convicted of manslaughter rather than murder, even though it is difficult to envisage different sentencing outcomes. One can appreciate, though, that relatives who regard Calocane as a murderer want him to be officially recognised as such, both on princple and given a hypothetical but fantastically improbable route to early release that has been hyped by segements of the media (Daily Mail: “Nottingham killer Valdo Calocane could be eligible for release in THREE YEARS under terms of hospital order”).

On this point, I do wonder about the implication that Calocane’s medical history means that he was inherently incapable of committing a random murder. One of the psychiatric experts judged that “it seems likely that Mr Calocane’s decision-making was largely governed by his psychotic experiences”, but that “seems likely” gives a lot of leeway – we don’t know exactly what he thought he was doing that night. Delusional belief is not in itself a bar to being convicted of murder: Danyal Hussein, for instance, was convicted of murder for killing two women apparently (2) in the belief that doing so would seal a demonic pact that would allow him to win the lottery. A random attack motivated by anger or frustration can also be murder. I’m open to the suggestion that Calocane’s general volatility (he had previously assaulted co-workers), rather than psychosis, motivated him – but could that ever be proven in court, given his diagnosis? (3) Sometimes justice is less than satisfactory because it cannot served fully, rather than because wrong decisions were taken. (4)

Notes

1. There was also heightened public interest in the case over an early assumption that this was a terror attack, which on social media has segued into gratuitous discussion of his ethnic background and immigration status. Thus Grimes pointedly refers to “Valdo Calocane, of Guinea-Bissau in West Africa” – a reference to his early childhood origins, rather than his a settled status in the UK as a Portguese citizen.

2. Hussein’s account was taken at face value, although why did he have to kill women specifically? It is reasonable to suspect banal mysogyny underlying the esoterism.

3. I think here of Robert Napper, who was convicted of manslaughter after he was belatedly found to be Rachel Nickell’s killer. However, his history of mental illness had not precluded him from being convicted of murdering a different young mother, along with her child.

4. It seems contradictory that Calocone was also found guilty of attempted murder, but had he been successful this would have been yet more manslaughter. Presumably this was the only way to deal with it given that “attempted manslaughter” is a nonsensical concept.

Laurence Fox Lashes Out After Libel Loss

In the Guardian, drag queen Crystal writes about their recent libel victory over Reclaim Party leader Laurence Fox:

It’s been bizarre to watch Fox’s behaviour this week. He’s refused to admit defeat, threatened to appeal, and doubled down on the rhetoric that started this whole mess. It’s especially bizarre given that damages are yet to be awarded – but perhaps if we view it as political strategy, it starts to make sense. I didn’t want to go to court, but Fox forced our hand by not only refusing to apologise, but with his ultimately failed countersuit (hole: dug).

Perhaps we gave him and any financial backers exactly what they wanted: publicity, outrage and, for some, damage to the reputation of our legal system. Regardless, I needed to see it through – I had to clear my name, and there must be consequences for defamation.

I wrote about the potential issues in 2020, including the possibility that Fox might counter-sue, which is what happened. Crystal, along with deputy chair of Stonewall Simon Blake and the actor Nicola Thorp, had accused Fox on social media of racism, based on their view of things he had said. Fox responded by calling the trio paedophiles. Fox’s defence was that he obviously wasn’t seriously accusing them, but, rather, simply trading socially stigmatising terms of abuse.

In the case of Thorp, he previously prevailed at the Court of Appeal, because he had mimicked her wording and the so context was clear. In the case of Crystal and Blake, though, he has lost. According to the judge:

Mr Fox’s firecracker ‘paedophile’ tweets may have been indiscriminately lobbed… but here they landed on highly combustible material, reputationally speaking. Three things about Mr Blake and Mr Seymour [i.e. Crystal] stand out in particular.

First, they are not only both gay men, but both had a public profile as such – Mr Blake in his Stonewall and other diversity roles, and Mr Seymour in the distinctively gay subculture or art-world of drag […] They both gave evidence from their own experience, which was not challenged, and which I accept, that one of the oldest, most pernicious and most stubbornly ineradicable falsities or myths of homophobia is that men whose sexuality is orientated to other men thereby exhibit a general ‘proclivity’ likely to comprehend a sexual orientation to children.

…Second, both claimants had, in the course of their respective professions, worked with children in circumstances in which sexual propriety was of the essence

…And third, remarkably, each claimant shared a name with a convicted child sex offender.

…Finally, there is no suggestion whatever that either claimant had himself previously done or said anything remotely capable of justifiably casting the shadow of paedophilia on himself.

Fox in contrast failed in his countersuit because he was unable to show that he had been seriously harmed by their “racist” allegation. Had this bar been reached, then the trio would have relied on an honest opinion defence, likely bolstered by Fox’s own testimony in court. As quoted in the Guardian, Fox thought it helpful to expound the view that “If a man is just released from a Ugandan jail where he’s been gang-raped by several men and he walks out and he goes: ‘I hate black people’, it’s a sort of understandable response”, and he chanted a haka to contrast footballers “taking the knee” in support of the Black Lives Matter movement with New Zealand rugby players. Speaking on The News Agents podcast, Thorp described spectacle as a”parody” and “an uneducated interpretation of a tribal dance”. (2)

Meanwhile, Fox has indeed been using the outcome to “damage to the reputation of our legal system”, via a series of bitter social media posts and and self-pitying video monologues made from the back of a car. In particular, he complains that the judge had failed to define the meaning of “racism”, and that it therefore is a meaningless term that he is now free to deploy against others. Thus he addresses Thorp:

Racist as a term now means nothing.

So actually, I won.

He followed this up with a post calling her a racist (1).

This is a wild compensationary extrapolation, but it reflects Fox’s apparent inability or refusal to understand that meaning arises out of context (also seen, for example, in his belief that “Aussie” and “Paki” are equivalent abbreviations), even though this is why Thorp’s claim failed and the others didn’t.  He also misrepresents the basis for the judge’s reasoning. As discussed by Sunder Katwala:

Fox has misunderstood the judgment. He attributed serious changes in reputation (eg loss of agent) to a couple of specific tweeters. The judgement shows his reputation (agent, public, media) was very different long before that owing to his penchant for controversy.

Fox needed to sue many more people earlier in the reputation shift.

Fox himself uses “racist” incessantly, eg for Sainsbury’s marking black history month/taking knee. He says this is key to free political expression. But he also now wants some kind of court ruling to define it

If you want to risk calling Laurence Fox (or Farage, Starmer, Corbyn, Sadiq Khan, Lammy, Braverman, Johnson, Southgate, Rashford or Katwala racist) + are asked to defend it legally, need either “fair comment, reasonably held” or “substantively true”. Fox case failed before that.

Fox seeks to defend as free expression statements like “most anti-racists are racist” about his specific political/ideological opponents & many EDI programmes) while seeking legal protection against other people describing any of his own statements as “racist” as honest opinion.

How far Fox is just being dim or alternatively has enough donor cash to put a lot of £ into losing, appealing & then miscommunicating why he lost for political reputation/martyr purposes hard to gauge. Tweet yesterday [calling Thorp a racist] is as/more stupid as the extremely stupid paedophile tweets

Also:

Other people have won defamation cases for being called racist. Fox’s team failed to make the case he needed to make for court to assess this (that his reputation was damaged by those tweets). The judgment suggests it may have been difficult for him had they needed to take a view.

It is also difficult to see how he can argue that he has lost his acting career when he boasted in May 2023 that he was “10 million quid up” for his performance in the Breitbart film My Son Hunter. The figure was always implausible (the film was crowdfunded for $2.75 million), but he can’t have it both ways in how he chooses to present himself.

Of course, there is some argument that the law should be reformed – Brendan O’Neill makes the case that people shouldn’t find themselves in court due to what he calls “a rhetorical flourish”. If an appeal goes ahead the judge’s reasoning will come under scrutiny more serious than Fox’s rants. Fox, though, is hardly helping the effort, even if his political patron Jeremy Hosking (Fox was quoted by the judge of boasting about receving “a huge wad of cash for this game” as leader of Reclaim) is happy with how Fox is framing the outcome and riling up his base of supporters.

Notes

1. In the original post, Fox also baselessly claimed that Thorp’s case against him failed because the court had earlier found her to be a “compulsive and vexatious liar”. He then went on to allege in an angry video that her commentary about the case was putting his life in danger.

2. The notion that “taking the knee” is an attitude of passivity or submission has arisen due to it having been taken out of its original context, which was as a defiant gesture of non-participation in standing for the American national anthem as a protest against police brutality against Black people. British sportspeople and some politicians adopted the position in solidarity following the death of George Floyd, but nearly four years later Prime Minister Rishi Sunak now sees it as something for which Keir Starmer should be derided.

Conspiracy Influencers Bandwagon on Farmers’ Protests

From Reuters:

French and Belgian farmers angry about rising costs, EU environmental policies and cheap food imports blocked highways and access roads to a major container port on Tuesday as the protests spread across Europe… Farmers say they are not being paid enough, are choked by excessive regulation on environmental protection and face unfair competition from cheap imports.

Part of “not being paid enough” concerns a power imbalance with supermarkets: French farmers have also targeted Lidl and Aldi for protests. In the UK, the “Get Fair About Farming Campaign” has highlighted that “almost half (49%) of British fruit and veg farmers fear they will go out of business within the next 12 months”, and that 75% see “supermarket behaviour” as a “leading factor”.

One might see scope here for an obvious left-of-centre critique of neoliberalism; however, the Financial Times recently noted a protest in Brussels “organised by MCC Brussels, a think-tank backed by the arch-Eurosceptic Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán”, and how “liberal and leftwing politicians fear that rural groups are being radicalised by far-right parties and Eurosceptic groups prepared to grasp any cause as a way to infiltrate mainstream politics ahead of EU elections in June.”

Meanwhile, the conspiracy milieu is also getting in on the act: if farmers are finding their work economically unsustainable, this is because of “globalists”, while “regulation on environmental protection” is based on bogus, corrupt science and scaremongering. As claimed in a recent documentary made by the Falun Gong media outlet NTD (previously noted here) entitled No Farmers No Food: Will You Eat The Bugs?, farmers are being “attacked” by governments, who want to control the food supply and move populations over to an insect-based diet. On social media, the German-inflected phrase “you vill eat ze bugs” is used to signal belief that the whole thing is being orchestrated by Klaus Schwab, whose reward for decades of self-promotion and elite networking is to find himself at the centre of many conspiracists’ thinking as an all-poweful bogeyman who for some reason nobody noticed until a few years ago.

The phrase “No Farmers, No Food” has also been around for a while, and over the past week or so it has been used as the name of a new account on Twitter/X (@NoFarmsNoFoods) which has now amassed more than 40,000 followers. The account is controlled by UK conspiracy influencer James Melville; although his name does not appear, striking similarities of rhetoric were obvious from the beginning, and he has confirmed his involvement in an interview with James Freeman, the former Brexit Party MEP who more recently has been working with vaccination misinformation spreader Aseem Malhotra. Inevitably, “merchandise” is promised, but it’s also a vehicle to promote other influencers, or those who seek to become such: a scroll through the account’s feed brings up endosements from the likes of Neil Oliver and Alan Miller of the Together Declaration, as well as links to a website infamous for attempting to smear Chris Packham. A number of posts focus on “net zero”, reflecting Melville’s views that climate science is bogus and that summer wildfires have no significance beyond an apparent rise in arsonists.

More generally, Melville has also promoted the idea that food distribution in the USA is under attack from supposedly mysterious fires and cattle deaths, presumably with a view to creating artificial shortages. He also complains about the extent of Bill Gates’s ownership of agricultural land in the US: this, though, is less a principled critique of monopoly capitalism than an objection to Gates as an especially malign individual. Last year, Melville suggested that Gates may be planning to contrive an pandemic to hamper the 2024 Presidential elections.

UDPATE: Meanwhile, John Bye has drawn attention to a group called the “People’s Food and Farming Alliance”. He describes it as “a spin-off from alternative medicine group the People’s Health Alliance. Unsurprisingly they promote homeopathy for farm animals, as well as growing your own food in case the government collapses our food supply”.

UPDATE 2: As a good example of how the media works, Melville was invited onto an episode of BBC Radio 4’s Farming Today devoted to the protests (at 17.27), during which he denied that his campaign has any “political slant”. However, he was followed by Leceistershire farmer Joe Stanley, who warned against genuine grievances being “wrapped up win conspiracy theories and some sort of extremist dogmas”on farming social media. Asked about “No Farmers No Food”, he notes:

Just from looking at their output, there’s a lot of talk around things such as “elites”, anti-climate change messaging, anti-net zero messaging, and then if you follow through the sorts of accounts that they in turn are re-Tweeting, there’s a lot of that sort of content which is coming from the right of the political spectrum.

Stanley is the author of Farm to Fork: The Challenge of Sustainable Farming in 21st Century Britain (Quiller, 2021), and he probably came to the BBC’s attention because of a letter in Farmer’s Weekly, published under the heading “Be Careful of Far-Right Farming Rhetoric”.

UPDATE 3 (11 February): The Reclaim Party’s Laurence Fox has drawn attention to a “No Farmers No Food” Tweet from James Melville, adding:

Britain’s brilliant, hardworking and crucial farmers should look very carefully into who has nominated themselves to represent them.

This got a “like” from Fox’s conspiracist girlfriend Liz Barker (CaliforniaFrizz, aka “Betty”), who was previously in a relationship with Melville (H/T @qandamazon).

HART Anti-Covid Vaccination Activist Amplifies “Covid Agenda is Jewish” Flyer

Unsurprisingly, the failed prophecy of mass vaccination harm has failed to shake the faith of many believers. As noted previously, one common cognitive strategy is to claim that the prophecy is coming to pass, but that only the discerning are aware of it: for example, sudden deaths or stories in the media about heart disease are evidence of vaccination harm; even cancer is actually a new phenomenon called “turbo cancer“, again supposedly attributable to  the vaccine to those in the know (1). Another strategy is to seek collective affirmation within the conspiracy milieu, embracing other outlandish pseudo-interpretations of events and phenomena.

And, of course, there is also increasing extremism. Thus yesterday Dr David Cartland of the anti-Covid vax group HART (previously noted here) posted a screenshot of a flyer bearing the message that “Every Single Aspect of the Covid Agenda is Jewish”, and alleging some sort of collusion between Jews with senior positions in the CDC, Jews heading pharmaceutical groups, and the World Economic Forum (here with the bonus false claim that Klaus Schwab is Jewish) A QR link promises to show “Jews celebrating their role in Covid”, and readers are invited to visit the website of “GoyimTV”, which carries the kind of material that you would expect and which has a logo of a “G” styled to look like a Nazi swastika.

Cartland posted the image alongside the message “Reposting is not endorsement”. But what then is it? He doesn’t offer up any criticism or critique – and the context suggests that Cartland believes the flyer makes a reasonable point that tends to support his Covid anti-vax conspiracism, rather that is it self-evidently foul. In response to one critic, his reply was “these are confirmed facts and leaving it to people to decide their own conclusions” – but why doesn’t he tell us what his own conclusions are? He’s now deleted the post (I saw it before it disappeared, and it’s still in Google cache) after receiving criticism, but he hasn’t offered any explanation. As such, we should infer that this is a strategic deletion, rather than a change of heart.

The anti-vax conspiracy milieu appears to be taking a dark turn.

(Image via @Drcharliefraud)

Note

1. The notion that vaccination is responsible for excess deaths was recently the focus of a GB News discussion between Nigel Farage and Angus Dalgleish (previously discussed here in relation to lab-leak claims).

A Note on Derek Draper and Covid Conspiracism

From the Daily Express:

Derek Draper death conspiracy slammed by Michael Rosen who shared ward with Kate’s husband

…Michael, 77, who was in intensive care for seven weeks alongside Derek, has hit out about the conspiracy around Kate [Garraway]‘s husband’s death cause, writing on X, formerly known as Twitter: “Anti-vax people are trying to blame Derek Draper’s sad death on vaccines. DD got ill at the same time as me and was in the same intensive care ward as me. It was all before the Covid vaccine was invented: March 2020.”

In a statement shared exclusively to Express.co.uk, the author said… “I think Kate had done a brave and important thing to have shown us what happened as it shines a light on the kinds of things that have happened to thousands of others across the country.”

It’s nice to see the Daily Express attempting to put the record straight on matter of public interest for a change, although disinformation about Derek Draper’s timeline is just one example of what antivaxxers and Covid-sceptics are saying about his death. Trolling posts on Twitter allege that Draper either died of something else or even faked his death; there have also been vicious comments aimed at his widow, complaining about how she kept her husband’s illness in the public eye for so long.

Draper’s illness was an ongoing reminder of just how dangerous Covid-19 could be before vaccines were developed, and of how long-term damage caused by the disease in 2020 might be affecting public health today, contributing to the excess deaths that antivaxxers claim are the hidden confirmation of their failed prophecy of mass vaccination mortality. As such, his story must be either discredited or rewritten. Those contributing to the effort include Jacqui Deevoy, formerly a mainstream journalist who has since invested in ghoulish conspiracy theories about the death of Nicola Bulley, and, unexpectedly, the wife of disgraced ex-MP Patrick Mercer, who accused Garraway of having “turned the poor man’s plight into a circus”.

The Express article also notes that Rosen himself has ongoing health issues:

In an update about his health, the author said he is now “mostly fine” but has long-lasting damage such as little sight in his left eye, a lack of hearing in his left ear as well as barely having any feeling left in his toes.

Back in August, Rosen was derided for talking about his experiences by the writer Victoria Freeman and by Lord Ian Austin. Freeman’s position while that it was “distasteful” for Rosen to talk about his survival when others had died, while Austin sarcastically suggested that “he just doesn’t like to talk about himself”. I thought at the time that that these lines of attack – based on personal dislike of Rosen for his political views on unrelated matters – were strained and undignified. Now we have an example of why telling a Covid survivor to stop going on about it is also wrongheaded.

UPDATE (February 2024): A late addition from perennial attention-seeker Katie Hopkins, who has produced a mocking video in which she repeatedy describes Draper as “dead Derek” and describes his funeral as a “fucking spectacle” that “we’re laughing at”. She explains:

money went into dead Derek in order to scare people from long Covid in order to promote the vaccine, and my personal opinion is that Kate Garraway was in on that.

SatanCon and Goblins: BBC Targeted in Satanic Panics

On GB News, Darren Grimes presents a boilerplate rant against the BBC; among the various reheated and endlessly recylced talking points (H/T Reuben Willmott):

…they’ve been accused of painting illegal immigration in a sympathetic light, and even discussing things like Satanism, of all things.

Here Grimes is referring specifically to an article that appeared in on the BBC News website in May about the Satanic Temple’s SatanCon in Boston the previous month. GB News capitalised this at the time, running a poll:

A study finds people living in the UK are among the least religious.

In the same week, the BBC published an article titled “The Satanic Temple: Think you know about Satanists? Maybe you don’t.” Have we lost our faith, or is there a godless agenda being pushed by sinister forces?

The wording was ambiguous: is the popularity of the Satanic Temple simply an alleged symptom of “a godless agenda being pushed by sinister forces”, or is the group in fact itself one of these “sinister forces”? The latter idea, of course, conflates the provocative and satirical anti-religion of the Satanic Temple with popular beliefs about people supposedly dedicating themselves in secret to the pursuit of wickedness, up to and including sexual abuse and even murder – the tropes of the Satanic Panic. Or was the BBC itself is the target here? That would appear to be what Grimes would like us to infer. Presumably, his view is that the BBC ought not to have reported on SatanCon, or else ought to have written something denouncing it.

The idea that the BBC is promoting Satanism is also currently being spread among new right influencers on account of the “Goblin Song”, a humorous musical number that appeared in Doctor Who on Christmas Day. Goblins sing about their plans to eat a kidnapped baby (who is rescued from a conveyor belt leading to the maw of the Goblin King by the Doctor and his new companion Ruby), with lyrics that include “Baby blood and baby bones / Baby butter for the baby scones”. According to the Reverend Daniel French:

There is a fantastical glorification of flesh eating that seems like moronic innuendo of Christianity. There is something about the lyrics which is just too coincidental. Did you see the Jordan Peterson and Jim Caviezel interview where they discussed how actors who play very dark antagonists (ie the Joker) have to be careful for their soul?

French was billed a “noted podcaster, commentator and writer” at May’s National Conservativism conference, where he delivered content “on behalf of Rod Dreher”; in June, he appeared as one of NTD’s “British Thought Leaders” (a title I blogged here). His comment was posted in response to another vicar, Jamie Franklin, who had expressed the view that the song is “disgusting” and that “the people who wrote it are sick”. Franklin, who calls himself a “based vicar”, is another podcasting cleric. John Bye notes that he is “a member of covid misinformation group HART”, and draws attention to a podcast from a year ago in which Franklin interviewed Andrew Bridgen MP; Bridgen reportedly used the opportunity to make “more wild accusations, including that Pfizer deliberately designed their vaccine to damage our immune systems and that the media is engaged in a smear campaign against him!”

John also notes that the Goblin Song has upset anti-vax activist Mark Sexton, who has urged people to “complaint to the BBC for child sacrifice”. Of course, Satanic conspiracism has an affinity with Covid conspiracism, as shown for example by Michael Yeadon.

New Tang Dynasty “British Thought Leaders”

From a blurb on a YouTube channel titled “British Thought Leaders”:

NTD’s Lee Hall sits down with Conservative Member of Parliament Danny Kruger to discuss his latest book ‘Covenant: The New Politics of Home, Neighbourhood and Nation’.

Danny talks about restoring the virtues that he says are important in society for making good people, a good nation and a good life.

He talks about the harm done by the sexual revolution and the Western deathwish. And reflects on rebuilding trust between politicians and the people that was damaged by COVID lockdowns.

Kruger’s NTD interview is not the most recent – that honour goes to Lembit Öpik  – but it came to wider attention on Twitter a couple of days ago [1], provoking scoffing at the “Thought Leader” title.

NTD stands for “New Tang Dynasty”, which unsurprisingly signals that we are in Falun Gong territory. As noted by Brandy Zadrozny and Ben Collins for NBC News back in 2019:

The Epoch Times, digital production company NTD and the heavily advertised dance troupe Shen Yun make up the nonprofit network that [founder and leader of Falun Gong Li Hongzhi] calls “our media.” Financial documents paint a complicated picture of more than a dozen technically separate organizations that appear to share missions, money and executives.

Further:

One… show is “Edge of Wonder,” a verified YouTube channel that releases new NTD-produced videos twice every week and now has more than 33 million views. In addition to claims that alien abductions are real and the drug epidemic was engineered by the “deep state,” the channel pushes the QAnon conspiracy theory, which falsely posits that the same “Spygate” cabal is a front for a global pedophile ring being taken down by Trump.

One QAnon video, titled “#QANON – 7 facts the MEDIA (MSM) Won’t Admit” has almost 1 million views on YouTube. Other videos in the channel’s QAnon playlist, which include videos about 9/11 conspiracy theories and one titled “13 BLOODLINES & their Diabolical End Game,” gained hundreds of thousands of views each.

We’ve known for years that it’s fairly easy to get a politician or public figure to talk into a television camera, but was Kruger aware of this context?

He’s not alone, though: there are currently 85 “British Thought Leader” videos available, plus one that for some reason is unavailable and “hidden”. Other interviees include Leilani Dowding (“Lockdowns, Gender Politics and the WEF”), Giles Udy (“The British Labour Party, Communism & the Gulag”), David Kurten (“The Fightback against Cultural Marxism”), Lois Perry (“Exposing the Green Agenda”) and Claire Fox (“The Age of Dangerous Ideas”), as well as politicians such as Ian Paisley Jr (“In a Crisis, People Turn to Faith Not Government”), Shaun Bailey (“Tackling London’s Problems”), Lord Moylan (“Will Britian Lose WhatsApp?”) and Graham Brady (“Governments Crossed the Line During Lockdowns”).

There are also some lesser-known figures whose path to the interview chair we can only guess at – with public figures NTD clearly gets more out of the association than do their subjects, but in some cases I suspect interviewees used networks to put themselves forward. One surprising inclusion is Bill Browder (“Putin’s Public Enemy Number One”).

Plus of course there is a comparable collection of Epoch TimesAmerican Thought Leaders“, with more focus on politicians talking about the CCP, but also input from prominent Covid misinformation peddlers such as Robert Malone and Peter McCullough.

Note

1. The occasion was discussion of Kruger’s role as co-chair of the “New Conservatives” grouping. Kruger is involved in various conservative networks: in May, for instance, he was part of the National Conservativism Conference (NATCON 2023); he is also an Advisory Board member for a group called the Alliance for Responsible Citizenship, which held its own conference in London at the end of October; as described by Graham Readfearn in the Guardian, ARC is “a sort of quasi-thinktank fronted by the controversial Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson”.

Notes on the Conspiracy Crowd and Gaza

Back in October, American “intellectual dark web” pontificator Bret Weinstein lamented that Israel’s response to the Hamas massacre in southern Israel had the effect of being a “coalition dicer-slicer”, working to “divide and conquer in an information landscape”. By this, he meant that the political influencer networks that had developed out of Covid conspiracism risked falling apart over differing interpretations of the subsequent Gaza conflict. He didn’t go so far as to suggest that the conflict had been created for this purpose, although his cautious phrasing “this turn of events… whatever their nature, let’s say that they’re perfectly organic” did not rule out the idea.

In the UK, conspiracy influencers have attempted to navigate and take advantage of the issue in various ways. Laurence Fox’s Reclaim Party has characterised pro-Palestine marches in London as a failure of integration and as a conspiracy against Britain, particularly when one march took place on the afternoon of Saturday 11 November. Reclaim Party MP Andrew Bridgen issued a statement falsely describing the protestors as “protestors against the Remembrance service” and wildly alleged that they were “seeking to occupy Whitehall overnight” (1). However, more recently Bridgen has endorsed a statement put out by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò alleging that Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislane were Mossad agents who sexually compromised world leaders, which is why politicians “do not dare to breathe a word against the massacres of civilians in the Gaza Strip” (2). In contrast, party ideologue Calvin Robinson has attempted to hedge in a different way, pointedly stating that “I haven’t made any pronouncements on Israel vs Palestine” – unlike in the case of Ukraine, where he happily endorsed claims that the conflict was some sort of media spectacle and that political support for Ukraine can be explained in terms of finanical corruption.

Meanwhile, there are no surprises from David Icke, who refers gratuitiously to the “Sabbatian Cult-controlled Israel government” and claims that it and Hamas both “answer to the Global Cult”. The need for a populist conspiracy angle is also evident from Maajid Nawaz, who describes Netanyahu as a “globalist traitor” and speculates that “Netanyahu probably BOUGHT Musk with the promise of WEF smart-city reconstruction military contracts in Gaza”.

Conspiracy influencer James Melville‘s angle is that the conflict is about “oil and gas reserves”, and he recently endorsed a crude statement, as expressed by someone in his social circle, that framed Israel’s actions in Gaza in terms of “genocidal maniacs & their cucked bootlickers”. Support for pro-Palestine marches has been expressed by Niall McCrae of TCW and the Covid anti-vax Workers of England Union, in conversation with Patrick Henningsen.

UPDATE: The anti-vax conspiracy cartoonist Bob Moran has posted online a prurient cartoon of various targets in a Roman bath scene, in which the water is replaced with blood; the tableau includes a figure supposed to be the conservative polemicist Douglas Murray (identified by the “Press” flak jacket he has been wearing recently while reporting from Gaza), in an intimate pose with Jordan Peterson. Netanyahu is depicted in a sexual scene with a masked figure representing Hamas.

Notes

1. Bridgen’s claims extrapolated from government and tabloid rhetoric: the populist then home secretary Suella Braverman described the protests as “hate marches” and whipped up a bogus threat to the Centotaph, while Rishi Sunak said that to protest on 11 November was inherently “disrespectual” – a position he later implicitly backed down from when he acknowledged “those who have chosen to express their views peacefully” at the National March for Palestine.

2. This endorsement (“The brave Archbishop Vigano speaks out again at personal risk to himself, people should listen”) may also be of interest to Matt Hancock, who is currently being sued for libel by Bridgen after stating that Bridgen has been spouting “anti-Semitic, anti-vax, anti-scientific conspiracy theories”.

Notes on “The Movement”

From Glen Owen at the Daily Mail, a few weeks ago:

Boris Johnson was ousted by a cabal that has been controlling the Tory leadership for two decades, according to an explosive book.

In The Plot: The Political Assassination of Boris Johnson, Nadine Dorries identifies Michael Gove, Dominic Cummings and a powerful adviser called Dougie Smith as members of ‘the movement’.

…The book claims that the origins of ‘the movement’ can be traced back to Mr Smith’s days in the Federation of Conservative Students, more than three decades ago.

Given that Owen is the paper’s political editor, it is odd that this is written up as if “the Movement” had never been heard of before, despite references in the public domain going back decades. For instance, here is Norman Tebbit’s Wikipedia entry:

In August 2002, Tebbit called on the then leader of the Conservatives, Iain Duncan Smith, to “clear out” Conservative Central Office of “squabbling children” who were involved with infighting within the Party. He named Mark MacGregor, a former leader of the Federation of Conservative Students which Tebbit disbanded for “loony Right libertarian politics”, as one of them. Then, in October the same year, Tebbit accused a group of Conservative “modernisers” called “The Movement” of trying to get him expelled from the Party. Tebbit said that The Movement consisted of a “loose” grouping of thirteen members who had previously supported Kenneth Clarke and Michael Portillo for Party leader. Duncan Smith subsequently denied that Tebbit would ever be expelled and Thatcher publicly said she was “appalled” at attempts to have Tebbit expelled and telephoned him to say that she was “four square behind him”.

Tebbit’s 2002 complaint came three years after he Sunday Mirror ran an article by Danny Buckland titled “Politically Incorrect: Portillo’s Step from the Closet was too Sudden a Movement” (12 September 1999). According to Buckland:

WHEN Michael Portillo outed himself about his gay days at Cambridge, the most anxious people around were from a spooky group who call themselves “The Movement”.

This highly-secret right-wing cabal have spent the past 12 years plotting for the day when their hero could enter the doors of 10 Downing Street and rule the world.

They are the Tory equivalent of Labour’s Militant Tendency in the Eighties, squirreling their way into local party organisations to ensure the selection of Portillista MPs who will back their man when it’s time for a change of leader.

These tactics – known to all fans of Leon Trotsky as “entryist” – have been employed at every level of the party. Several newspapers have even been infiltrated by men who have risen to senior posts.

The Sunday Telegraph provided a bit more context in October 2002:

In fact, the “Movement” is nothing more than a nickname adopted with a dash of irony by young Tories of the 1990s who were devoted to keeping the spirit of Thatcherism alive in the leadership ambitions of Michael Portillo. “It was not like the Freemasons, more like a cafe – people came and went,” one member said.

Members of the set included Douglas Smith, a former member of the now-defunct Federation of Conservative of Students and Mr MacGregor, the party’s current chief executive. There is no suggestion, of course, that either of these men was directly responsible for last week’s briefing. But it is unlikely that any of them will have felt much sympathy for Lord Tebbit.

“If we saw each other in a room, we knew who we were,” said another of the group. “The ironic thing is that Tebbit would have been a hero of the Movement in 1990s when the objective was to keep Thatcherism alive against wobbly John Major. It has turned against Tebbit because it has now focused on the need for modernisation, which he opposes.

In the same month, an attempt to project “the Movement” back into the 1980s was made by the late Mike Keith-Smith, in a strange letter to the Independent (18 October 2002: “Hard-Right Tory Leaders are Masquerading as Lefty Liberals”):

The Movement originated with the far-right elements who took over first the Federation of Conservative Students, and then the Young Conservatives during the 1980s. Now that many of its adherents are MPs and senior party officials, the Movement has cynically tacked to the left of the Tory spectrum and collected a smattering of “wet” dupes to provide window dressing.

…As a trusted Movement contact and a senior member of the hard- right Monday Club, I was repeatedly asked to help organise the disruption of CND peace protests, particularly those headed by Bruce Kent, a Movement hate figure. I ceased my support for these tactics after Movement thugs hit the headlines by spearheading a disgraceful violent night assault on peaceful CND protesters camping on Brighton beach during the Tory conference.

Keith-Smith was associated with a rival right-wing strand sympathetic to Tebbit, and by this time was in UKIP. The second paragraph above appears to allude to a split between so-called “authoritarians” and “libertarians” in 1980s Tory right (blogged here), but it is unlikely that the term “the Movement” was then in use.

A further reference to “the Movement” appeared in May 2010, on a one-post blog that published an obituary of Robert Chambers, an FCS activist who had died early, written by his widow:

If I have to explain the movement and FCS to you then you weren’t in it and wouldn’t understand. For those that were… remember the days as the Leicester loonies, Loughborough Conference, being Party Reptiles and Shirley Stotter banning us from attending conference, the closure of FCS, the Leicester loonies reunions and those mad mad three years…oh my when we were young we thought we were going to rule the world – and we could have done….

The same article recalls:

He had not long moved down to London when he met me at the Conservative Party Conference in 1984/5 in Blackpool. We fell in love quickly and I moved in with him, Dougie Smith and Rob Clarkson at the squat/flat in Battersea…

Smith may not now “rule the world”, but according to The Plot he is the secret power behind the throne in Downing Street. The book distinguishes between Smith and a shadowy figure Dorries calls “Dr No”, but an éxpose that fails to name a central figure in the conspiracy makes no sense. It is far more reasonable to suppose that “Dr No” is a device which allowed the author to include allegations that lawyers felt were too risky to be attributed (1).

These old claims about “the Movement” appear to have been reheated in the service of a new round of the same right-wing factionalism that inspired Keith-Smith’s letter more than twenty years ago. Earlier this year saw the launch of the Conservative Democratic Organisation, headed by Lord Cruddas (blogged here). The CDO has been described as a “party within a party”, and is thought to be attempting to control the selection of party candidates at a local level. However, according to The Plot, as reported by Owen, “Mr Smith has controlled the selection of Tory MPs since 2017, with candidates forced to ‘sell their soul’ to him”. Dorries is also with the CDO; it appears, then, that Smith has been targeted because he is an obstacle to Cruddas’s ambitions.

Note

1. Partridge-like, the book contains numerous James Bond references. In this context, though, “Dr No” doesn’t really make sense – the shadowy mastermind in the Bond universe of course is Blofeld. However, this created a problem: Dorries’s literary agent is named Piers Blofeld.