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A Note on Douglas Murray’s Attack on Byline Times

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Further:

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

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

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

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

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

Footnote

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Footnote

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

Quilliam Foundation Closes

An announcement from Maajid Nawaz:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Note on the Daily Mail, Colin Stagg, Operation Midland and the Metropolitan Police

From the Daily Mail, a week ago:

Colin Stagg is now 57, greying and portlier than when he hit the headlines in the early 1990s, but there is no mistaking his features as he heads to his local Tesco Express for his checkout shift.

He was the innocent loner targeted in a police honey trap involving a blonde undercover officer whose mission was to get him to ‘confess’ to a murder he did not commit.

Mr Stagg never admitted killing Rachel Nickell, 23 – stabbed 49 times in front of her young son Alex on Wimbledon Common in July 1992 – and there was no worthwhile evidence against him, but police still charged him with her murder.

…For now, friends say he is simply getting on with his life after being the victim of one of Scotland Yard’s most disgraceful investigations in which – as in the more recent shambolic VIP child abuse inquiry Operation Midland – the presumption of innocence was not adhered to by police.

Stagg’s current circumstances are deemed newsworthy due to an upcoming Channel 4 drama about the case. The reference to Operation Midland, though, links the the story to the paper’s ongoing series of articles about fall-out from the Carl Beech fiasco.

In recent weeks the paper has returned to claims that Operation Midland search warrants were obtained unlawfully by the Met by misleading a judge, and it has highlighted that two unnamed false accusers who hitched their wagon to Beech’s star at a time when the Met had declared his allegations to be “credible and true” have not faced any action against them (an outcome that is currently being investigated by Merseyside Police). There has also been a piece on “bombshell emails” detailing how Cressida Dick, who currently heads the Met (although that may change very soon after last night’s incident on Clapham Common), “was shielded by her colleagues”, and an article denouncing the appointment of former Met chief Bernard Hogan-Howe (now Lord Hogan-Howe) “to carry out an external review of a major police database blunder.”

However, the description of what happened to Colin Stagg as being “of one of Scotland Yard’s most disgraceful investigations” comes over as somewhat unreflective given how tabloids including the Mail persecuted him after his trial collapsed in 1994 – an outcome that was less than an exoneration until the actual killer was identified several years later. Here’s Nick Cohen, writing in the Observer in 2006:

The worst of it was that the police and media persuaded the family of Rachel Nickell that the crucial difference between Stagg and [Myra] Hindley was that Stagg had got away with murder. The News of the World ran lipsmacking pieces on how the ‘weirdo’ demanded ‘bizarre sex’ with his ‘terrified’ girlfriend yards from where Rachel Nickell was murdered. The Daily Mail quoted Andre Hanscombe, father of her son, saying he was ’99 per cent certain’ that Stagg was guilty and the government should remove the double jeopardy law so he could be tried again. It also ran a serialisation of a self-justificatory book by the officer in charge of the case, Detective Inspector Keith Pedder, headlined ‘How British Justice Betrayed Rachel’s Son’.

All the harassment and the tub-thumping, the misleading of Rachel Nickell’s family and the denigration by the judge was in vain; a vast exercise in distraction left the real killer free to commit other crimes.

Cohen’s article is headlined “With police and tabloids in cahoots, Colin Stagg became a sacrificial lamb”. That cosiness apparently came to an end when the Metropolitan Police began investigating tabloid phone-hacking; thus the Mail‘s right-wing polemicist Richard Littlejohn, reacting to the paper’s recent articles on Operation Midland, last month linked the case to “the Gestapo tactics the Old Bill used against journalists accused of phone-hacking and paying public servants for information” (1).

I wrote more about the investigation into Stagg here.

Note

1. Journalistic hostility to the Met, though, did not inhibit the paper’s hatchet-man Guy Adams from in 2019 referring online to former Chief Constable of Wiltshire Police Mike Veale as “carrot-cruncher”, shortly after an ITV dramatization of the Levi Bellfield case revealed that “carrot” is an derisive nickname used within the Metropolitan Police to refer to officers from other forces.

Mail Online Amplifies Abusive Tweet

When is a “vile troll” not a “vile troll”? The Daily Mail website (which also incorporates the Mail on Sunday and Mail Online) yields around 2,000 Google search results for the phrase (singular and plural); there are also many more related stories on the site that don’t use the exact expression. Examples of trolling deemed worthy of condemnatory news coverage range from taunting messages that wish individuals harm or express glee over some personal tragedy, through to more mundane kinds of hurtful abuse.

Yet “vile trolls” have their uses, one of which is to editorialise by proxy. In such cases, trolls are actually the authentic pox populi, merely expressing strong opinions about members of elite who need to be taken down a peg or two. A recent example of this appears in a MailOnline piece, under the headline

British viewers call on Prince Harry and Meghan Markle to lose Duke and Duchess rank for being ‘disrespectful’ to the Queen during bombshell Oprah interview – but Americans praise couple’s ‘honesty and bravery’

The article takes the form of a social media round-up, and is heavy with screenshots. Like all such articles, the material chosen for display is selective, and this exhibit in particular from Twitter caught my eye:

What a bitch. Hope her and Harry lose their Duke and Duchess titles. She’s got no class and doesn’t deserve to be associated with our Royal family. Meghan’s half sister was right in her pre-wedding interviews.

The word “bitch” is blanked out by the Mail, but the reading is obvious. Despite this, though, the designation “troll” does not appear anywhere – he’s apparently just a “British viewer”.

Why amplify such an individual? The account concerned is anonymous; it has 500 followers, and most of its previous Tweets and RTs consist of lewd comments about female celebrities (including one about the Duchess of Cambridge). It cannot seriously be claimed that such a gratuitous comment needed to be included for reasons of even-handedness.

The Oprah interview included a voiceover segment where Winfrey referred to “constant criticism, blatant sexist and racist remarks by British tabloids and internet trolls”; presumably this is what prompted Ian Murray of the Society of Editors to complain that

It is… unreasonable for the Duke and Duchess to conflate the legitimate coverage provided by the edited and regulated UK media with the wild west of social media.

Yet the “edited and regulated UK media” appears to be very comfortable using “wild west of social media” as a polemical resource.

New York Magazine Describes False Memory as “A Defense for Sex Offenders”

An bad-faith headline from New York Magazine:

The Memory War Jennifer Freyd accused her father of sexual abuse. Her parents’ attempt to discredit her created a defense for countless sex offenders.

Peter Freyd was accused by his daughter after she apparently remembered childhood sex abuse as an adult during a therapeutic encounter. Peter and his wife Pamela Freyd then famously created the False Memory Syndrome Foundation to advocate for memory research, focusing on the phenomenon of supposed “recovered memory”. Advocates for the veracity of recovered memories have celebrated the closure of the FMSF, as I discussed a year ago here in relation to the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation.

Since the 1970s, memory research has given us a fuller and more nuanced understanding of the uncertainties of human memory, and some of this knowledge has relevance to legal proceedings. Of course, evidence that memory is malleable may be useful for guilty defendants looking to explain away victim or witness testimony (a point so banal it is barely worth stating), but it can be vital in preventing miscarriages of justice. Although focusing mostly on the Freyds, the article, by Katie Heaney, also discusses the work of Elizabeth Loftus:

Perhaps no one alive has been harder on memory’s reputation than Loftus. In 1974, the Department of Transportation awarded Loftus — then a newly minted Ph.D. in psychology — a grant to study memory distortion among eyewitnesses of car accidents. That same year, she used her findings to assist a public defender in a murder trial; the defendant got off, and Loftus has had no shortage of work as an expert witness ever since.

“Got off” obviously implies that a guilty defendant got away with it, but here’s the actual context of the case, as described by Loftus herself in 1975:

Last year I worked with the Seattle Public Defender’s office on a case involving a young woman who had killed her boy friend. The prosecutor called it first-degree murder, but her lawyer claimed she had acted in self-defense. What was clear was that during an argument, the defendant ran to the bedroom, grabbed a gun, and shot her boy friend six times. At the trial, a dispute arose about the time that had elapsed between the grabbing of the gun and the first shot. The defendant and her sister said two seconds, while another witness said five minutes. The exact amount of elapsed time made all the difference in the world to the defense, which insisted the killing had occurred suddenly, in fear, and without a moment’s hesitation. In the end the jury must have believed the defendant; it acquitted her. [1]

It’s not clear from this whether Loftus’s testimony was decisive, and that last sentence is slightly infelicitous in that it overstates the jury’s need for belief – perhaps the defendant was compelling, and perhaps there was other evidence in her favour, but if the case hinged on the “five minute” witness then all that was needed was that the jury should be unsure. The anecdote is a coda at the end of an article that discusses various instances of mistaken identity and misremembered details.

Heaney goes on to discuss the limitations of the famous “Lost in the Mall” false memory experiment that Loftus devised with the neuroscientist Jimmy Coan, who at that time was an undergraduate:

Coan, Loftus’s former student and now a neuroscientist and psychology professor at the University of Virginia, has decidedly mixed feelings about the experiment he inadvertently spearheaded. “I’m slow enough on the uptake that it took me a while to realize that the study I was doing was making people who had been sexually abused feel like I was their enemy,” he tells me. “That was completely devastating to me.” Although he has been asked to testify about false memory in countless court cases, Coan has always refused. He just doesn’t think the mall study is sufficiently relevant. In her excitement, he thinks, Loftus may have “mischaracterized” what started out as an undergraduate assignment for extra credit.

“I got five points,” Coan says. “Five points and decades of grief.”

Coan has responded to this characterisation on Facebook, in two comments:

[deep exhale]… OK. Time to clarify a couple of things about this article, and its accompanying podcast episode. First, Katie Heaney (its author) appears to have done some creative editing of our phone conversation to make it appear that I’m saying that Elizabeth Loftus’s work is unconvincing and misunderstood, when what I’m ACTUALLY talking about is my five point extra credit assignment in Beth’s class nearly 30 years ago. And things like being misquoted in the service of a shoehorned agenda is what I was referring to when I made my “decades of grief” quip. And the reason I don’t testify about all of this when asked to is that I’m not qualified to do so, not that I think the research is bad or irrelevant. [frustrated face here]

I’ve contacted Heaney seeking an explanation. Would love to get the complete recording of our conversation released.

More thoroughgoing critiques of the article have been published by Carrie Poppy on Medium, and by Julian Greaves of the Grey Faction, mentioned in passing by Heaney as the FMSF’s “online, cult-obsessed sons”. As discussed by Poppy:

Heaney also waves her hand at Grey Faction, an activist group that exposes psychological pseudoscience, because they (in her mind) are obsessive teens who are still enthralled by the Satanic Panic caused by repressed memory theory in the ’80s and ’90s. Never mind that that history is intrinsically tied to Qanon, “deep state” conspiracy theories, and the other madness the U.S. is still grappling with today.

Much of Poppy’s critique takes the form of a letter to the editor that was never published. She has also posted letters to the magazine from Loftus, from the Center for Inquiry, from Greaves and his Grey Faction associate Evan Anderson, and from Pamela Freyd herself. A response from the editor, Ted Hart, is also included, although for some reason he didn’t want it made public.

Pamela Freyd’s response includes some forensic observations about Heaney’s rhetoric:

Peter is described as “prideful” rather than “stoic.” A defendant “got off” rather than “was found innocent.” Peter and Pam were “intimate” rather than “were married.” Multiple items associated with Pam and Peter are referred to as “elite,” “wealthy” or “affluent. Victims of therapeutic suggestion are “gullible” [according to the FMSF] rather than “vulnerable.”

I discussed an earlier attack on the concept of false memory here.

Footnote

1. Elizabeth F. Loftus, 1975. “Reconstructing Memory: The Incredible Eyewitness”, Jurimetrics Journal 15 (3): 188-193, p. 193. Available here.

Pastoral Couple in Devon Claim “Many” British Christians “Embraced” QAnon and Trump Prophecies

From a post by American neo-Pentecostal commentator Michael L. Brown, following a conversation with two British Christians:

They told me that many U.K. Christians were terribly disappointed with the defeat of Donald Trump. They shared that, to their knowledge, there were hundreds of thousands of British Christians who were looking to Trump as a kind of savior-figure. This was absolutely astounding to them, as they said to me, “Donald Trump is not even our president.”

…They also told me that the failed Trump prophecies had impacted many churches in England, specifically the charismatic and Pentecostal churches. They said that in every church they knew of, people had been negatively affected.

…This pastoral couple also told me that many Christians had embraced the QAnon conspiracy theories, even within their own church. They spoke of well-educated people, committed Christian people, who had dropped out of their congregations because of the conspiracy theories.

These conspiracy theorists believed that they had uncovered the real truth of the matter, causing them to scorn the pastor and his wife whom, they claimed, did not have sufficient spiritual discernment to recognize what was actually taking place.

An accompanying video clarifies that Brown was speaking with Jon and Louise Sibley, a pastoral couple associated with the Crossroad Christian Fellowship in Seaton, Devon. Of course, one should be wary of relying too heavily on an anecdotal impression, but their perspective is worth noting.

Brown has recently promoted a Christian book called The QAnon Deception: Everything You Need to Know about the World’s Most Dangerous Conspiracy Theory, and he is scathing of attempts by co-religionists to rationalise failed Trump re-election prophecies by claiming that Trump is president in heaven or may yet return. Incongruously, he has expressed these views on Charisma News, a neo-Pentecostal news site notable for spreading conspiracy theories and Trump “prophets”.

Maajid Nawaz Denounces Observer Coverage of His Conspiracy Theory Tweets

From the Observer:

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

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

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

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

His argument is that as regards the US election,

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

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

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

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

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

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

See also Zelo Street here.

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

Maajid Nawaz Threatens Libel Actions Over Claim He Spreads Conspiracy Theories

At the end of the year, Maajid Nawaz issued a warning to anyone taking his name in vain on social media:

A reminder to those on here who have today overstepped the mark & smeared me already.

I’m watching.

My Guradian US action took this to 5-0 [Link]

After action against Bastani it’s now 6-0 [Link]

I don’t do fail —> [Link]

The links refer to financial settlements and media apologies that Nawaz has previously received over misrepresentations about his past and his present activism. Aaron Bastani had incorrectly described him as being a former terrorist rather than a former Islamist, and others had mischaracterised his current activism against Islamism as “Islamophobia”. Most famously, the SPLC’s insurers paid a substantial sum to the Quilliam Foundation after Nawaz was incorrectly included in a report entitled A Journalist’s Manual: Field Guide to Anti-Muslim Extremists. The matter is discussed in the Atlantic here.

More recently, however, Nawaz has come under criticism for his social media commentary on the Covid pandemic and on the likelihood of Donald Trump overturning the election result. On the latter, Nawaz began in November from the reasonable enough position that liberals ought not to dismiss allegations of fraud or irregularities out of hand, and that they should be mindful of legal and constitutional pathways when results are disputed. However, in the days and weeks that followed he increasingly chose to amplify bad actors and articles containing misinformation, including a dud statistical pseudo-analysis which he only repudiated when it was pointed out him that his source was an anti-Semite (a bit awkward given that Nawaz was about to receive a “Beacon of Light” award from the pro-Israel group StandWithUs UK). Nawaz also dabbled in his own speculations, claiming that Diane Feinstein’s husband invests in Dominion and that this is important because a Feinstein “staffer” (actually her driver) had been exposed as a Chinese spy (in 2013).

Nawaz provided no counter-balance when legal challenges to the election result crashed and burned, or when pro-Trump lawyers Sidney Powell and Lin Wood began making extravagant crackpot assertions. Instead, he warned  that “some people are about to be hit by the constructed reality they’ve been living in since election day” as it became clear that some members of Congress intended to object to the results on 6 January. Even now, he hasn’t explicitly given up on the idea that a report from the Director of National Intelligence on the possibility of foreign interference in the election might give Trump the authority to “act unilaterally”.

Polite disagreement from other Twitter users  has been met with blocks, although for some reason he tolerated extensive critical commentary from Sunder Katwala before finally blocking him on 6 January. Many of Katwala’s Tweets on the subject were threaded and can be seen starting starting here.

This then, was the context for Nawaz bringing his December Tweet to the attention of the actor Eddie Marsan after Marsan described him as “a self publicising shock jock promoting dangerous conspiracy theories”, in response to a similar view expressed by Adam Wagner. Thus was after Nawaz Tweeted that “reports on protestors who stormed Capitol Hill being Antifa infiltrators are becoming impossible to ignore”, based on Laura Ingraham’s amplification of a false story in the Washington Times about how this had been established by a facial recognition company.

Nawaz responded by sending him an RT of the Tweet quoted at the start of this post, adding:

Logged & captured.

PS: I do advise you strongly to delete this libellous tweet, apologise & retract. I have a year ahead of me to keep watching.

I’m no stranger to these dark fields.

And I assure you of my patience.

Marsan responded with a somewhat sarcastic apology, which Nawaz chose to take at face value. However, the legal threat has been met with disgust and derision from various quarters (as rounded up by Tim at Zelo Street here). One Twitter user repeated the claim and tagged Mark Lewis, Nawaz’s go-to lawyer but also someone who represents some of Marsan’s acting friends.

Having followed Nawaz’s output on and off over the years, I generally considered him to be a serious person writing and speaking in good faith. I didn’t agree with some of his positions or activities (such as his heralded “deradicalisation” of Tommy Robinson, which has not turned out well), but I was happy to debunk disinformation that was targeted against him (e.g. here and here). However, he always struck me as somewhat self-righteous and as careless in his some of his media-derived claims, and his complaints about being targeted with threats did not always convince. His trigger-happy recourse to libel threats on Twitter has been problematic before: in 2018, for instance, he threatened to sue Jonathan Portes for having inferred that Nawaz’s exhortation to people to read an article by Douglas Murray meant that he agreed with it. I am no longer of the view that his positive contributions outweigh the negative aspects to his position as a public figure.

Charisma News Author Publishes Book Denouncing “The QAnon Deception”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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