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Some Notes on the Media and Wuhan “Lab-Leak” Claims

From the Daily Mail, last week:

Rand Paul says Fauci LIED to Congress by insisting US never funded gain-of-function research at Wuhan lab after newly unearthed grant proposal reveals how scientists studied bat coronavirus with American money

Dr. Anthony Fauci has been accused of lying to Congress by claiming the US did not fund gain-of-function research after newly unearthed documents regarding the grant proposal a study at the Wuhan lab blamed for creating COVID were made public for the first time.

The files were obtained by The Intercept as part of an FOI request to drill down the possible root of COVID and whether the US had any role in it.

…Nowhere in the report are the words gain-of-function used to describe the project.

The only mention of it is the NIH’s addition that ‘no funds are provided and no funds can be used to support gain-of-function research’.

Framing the story via an allegation by a politician is less of a risky investment, but it also shows a certain lack of confidence in the claims; and the NIH quote specifically ruling out gain-of-function research is something of an anti-climax. Oddly, the quote was not even mentioned by the original Intercept article, although it refers a different part of the same document:

The bat coronavirus grant provided EcoHealth Alliance with a total of $3.1 million, including $599,000 that the Wuhan Institute of Virology used in part to identify and alter bat coronaviruses likely to infect humans. Even before the pandemic, many scientists were concerned about the potential dangers associated with such experiments. The grant proposal acknowledges some of those dangers: “Fieldwork involves the highest risk of exposure to SARS or other CoVs, while working in caves with high bat density overhead and the potential for fecal dust to be inhaled.”

“Alter” here hints at “gain of function”, but of course the word has wider meanings. But why does the article follow “the potential dangers associated with such experiments” with a quote about the (well-known) potential dangers of harvesting samples in the wild? It’s a non-sequitur, and so weird that it undermines confidence in the authors.

The article also refers to “900 pages of information”, a rhetorical strategy that implies a mass of pertinent evidence rather than a few points that may be relevant to the discussion here and there. I expressed some frustration about this on social media to Richard Ebright, one of the more high-profile “lab-leak” proponents, and was  surprised to get a personal response, which was that I was a “troll” and “stupid“. Despite this irascibility, however, Ebright also kindly directed me to the Intercept‘s follow up article, a more discursive discussion with a range of views as to what “gain of function” actually entails (1).

Claims about “gain of function” at Wuhan seem to me to be compensatory for the failure to establish firm evidence of human manipulation in samples of SARS-CoV-2. This is also why lab-leak proponents have positioned themselves having overcome a “cover-up”. Thus the Daily Telegraph last month, reporting on a Channel 4 documentary:

Scientists created false narrative over suspected Covid leak from Wuhan lab, say experts

Last February, a group of 27 scientists, including Sir Jeremy Farrar, president of the Wellcome Trust, wrote a letter in The Lancet stating: “We stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that Covid-19 does not have a natural origin.”

However, it later emerged that one of the key people behind the letter was Peter Daszak, who had worked closely with Wuhan scientists researching Sars-related coronaviruses in bats. An addendum to The Lancet letter setting out his links to the Chinese lab was not published until June this year.

A further article published in Nature Medicine also claimed there was no evidence to suggest that the virus had been manipulated. But scientists told filmmakers it was wrong to draw such conclusions based on the available evidence.

David Relman, professor of microbiology and immunology at Stanford University, who advises the US government on biological threats and risks, said: “I was a little perplexed and a little bit upset with five very good scientists, some of whom I know well, who I thought stepped way out beyond what they should have been saying, based on the data available to all of us.”

Richard Ebright, professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Rutgers University, added: “These were not scientific papers, they did not present scientific evidence, they did not analyse and support scientific data, they were presenting opinion, they did not belong in scientific journals.

“A small group of scientists, aided by journalists, established and enforced a false narrative that science showed Sars-Cov-2 was a natural zoonotic spillover and a further false narrative that this was the scientific consensus.”

Both the letter and the short article were published in the correspondence sections of their respective journals, which undermines Ebright’s complaint – of course they “present opinion”, that’s what that part of an academic journal is for.

The Lancet letter appeared during a period in which conspiracy theories were rife – a PolitiFact page from a month before lists all kinds of wild claims, including far-reaching “bioweapon” allegations that were being promoted by Steve Bannon and Miles Guo. Given this context, it was perfectly reasonable to refer to “conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin”. When Bannon and Guo went on to produce a supposed whistleblower named Li-Meng Yan, she was all over the media with extraordinary claims that the chimerical nature of the virus was blatantly obvious and that the only reason other scientists weren’t saying so was because of the influence of the Chinese Communist Party (2). If more nuanced “lab-leak” or “infected scientist” theories (not all of which require a non-natural virus) weren’t gaining traction, I suggest that this kind of sensationalist material was the reason, rather than the media being overawed and cowed by a letter in the Lancet. Lab-leak claims were promoted in particular by the UK Mail on Sunday during the months that followed the Lancet letter. (3)

There have also been attempts to personally discredit the Lancet letter writers, the suggestion being that they failed to disclose their own links to the Wuhan Institute of Virology. This formed the basis for an attack piece that appeared in the Daily Telegraph on Friday (syndicated to Yahoo! News here), which has now been followed up with a piece in the Daily Mail. The articles do not reveal anything not already in the public domain and some of the linkages are tenuous or by second-degree. The Lancet letter includes a reference to “our colleagues on the frontline”, which wouldn’t have been included had the authors been attempting to give a false impression of personal distance. A mountain range is being made out of molehills.

The new Telegraph article also includes exultant commentary from two scientists the newspaper has promoted previously:

Angus Dalgleish, professor of oncology at St Georges, University of London, and Norwegian scientist Birger Sorensen, who struggled to have work published showing a link between the virus and Wuhan research, said there had been an “extreme cover-up”.

Commenting on the discovery that so many of the signatories were linked to China, they said: “This article is the first to show beyond reasonable doubt that our entire area of virus research has been contaminated politically. We bear the scars to show it.”

The “struggle” here appears to mean the usual peer review process, and no evidence is provided that well-grounded arguments were excluded unfairly. And I’m wary of a lecture on “political contamination” from a former UKIP candidate.

The Telegraph‘s previous article on Dalgleish and Sorensen emerged out of a Telegraph podcast involving Richard Dearlove, the retired former head of MI6. Dearlove was impressed by their work, and his endorsement has given “lab leak” claims the mystique of intelligence, even though he doesn’t know anything more about it than the general public. The authority of intelligence agencies also forms the basis for a new book by an Australian journalist named Sharri Markson, entitled What Really Happened In Wuhan. Speaking recently to Maajid Nawaz on LBC, Markson said that she had spoken to people who had seen “top secret” intelligence:

“I’ve interviewed President Trump, I’ve interviewed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, twice over the past six months, I’ve interviewed John Ratcliffe, who was the director of national intelligence in the United States, along with many others including Sir Richard Dearlove… who was the head of British intelligence, and all of these people… give it very high probability that it leaked from a lab.”

Back in May, however, it was reported that Markson’s

exclusive about a “chilling” document produced by Chinese military scientists is based on a discredited 2015 book containing conspiracy theories about biological warfare which is freely available on the internet.

The book itself is out later this month from HarperCollins (4).

Notes

1. I got off lightly with Ebright – someone else who made a similar point to me got “shit-for-brains idiot” in reply. In fairness, though, variations of this stock insult are also deployed liberally by Ebright against anti-vaxxers and the likes of Sebastian Gorka.

2. Yan has since fallen out with Guo, a development that doesn’t appear to have caught much media interest.

3. In August 2021, Peter Embarek, Head of the WHO Mission to Wuhan, told a Danish interviewer that a Chinese scientist being infected while harvesting samples in the field is a “likely hypothesis” for the origins of SARS-CoV-2. Even though this was just a casual comment provided months after the WHO’s report, the The Times mispresented it as the organisation’s new official position, with the sensational headline “First Covid carrier probably Chinese scientist, says WHO”. The paper also used a file photo of Embarek holding up a scientific diagram, thus falsely giving the impression that he was presenting new findings rather than speaking informally. Of course, the headline on its own also implies the possibility of a lab-leak, although Embarek’s opinion is that this is “unlikely” (downscaled from the WHO report’s “highly unlikely”).

4. Markson’s choice of publisher shows how the world has changed over the years. Way back in 1998 Rupert Murdoch told the company not to publish a book about China by Chris Patten, as he feared it might damage his prospects of doing business in the country.

High-Profile Victims of “Police Corruption, Incompetence and Malpractice” Join Forces

From Stephen Wright in the Daily Mail:

A landmark panel of victims of police corruption, incompetence and malpractice today call for the head of Cressida Dick.

In a bombshell open letter to Boris Johnson, they said the disaster-prone Met commissioner should not be handed a two-year contract extension as expected.

Led by Stephen Lawrence’s trailblazing mother, Baroness Lawrence, and Lady Brittan, widow of Tory home secretary Leon Brittan, the signatories all give Dame Cressida a resounding vote of no confidence.

They also demand an overhaul of the Met’s senior team, ‘urgent and long overdue’ reform of the police complaints system and a shake-up of the ‘unfit for purpose’ Independent Office for Police Conduct.

…The group of seven influential figures includes the son of D-Day hero Lord Bramall, BBC broadcaster Paul Gambaccini, the brother of axe murder victim Daniel Morgan, Edward Heath’s biographer Michael McManus and former Tory MP Harvey Proctor.

The group was brought together by the paper, and the article includes an extraordinary group photograph that encapsulate the two most serious aspects of police malpractice: persecution of the innocent, and failure to bring the guilty to account.

Leon Brittan, Lord Bramall and Harvey Proctor were famously victimised when the Metropolitan Police declared that outlandish claims by the false accuser Carl Beech were “credible and true” – Beech also accused the late Edward Heath, which explains McManus’s participation. Paul Gambaccini, meanwhile, was one of several innocent celebrities caught up in Operation Yewtree – I previously discussed a 2015 event where he appeared alongside the innocent one-time murder suspect Christopher Jefferies, in a post where I specifically highlighted the relevance of their experiences for the Harvey Proctor case.

Police failings as regards the murders of Stephen Lawrence and Daniel Morgan of course go back to the 1990s and 1980s, but Doreen Lawrence has argued that there are still lines of enquiry to be pursued and Alastair Morgan has had to overcome one police obstruction after another.

I expect that some people who are sympathetic to the cause will be put off simply by the fact that the group has been brought together by the Daily Mail. Indeed, some of those who attended the meeting might have had misgivings. Early reports (not by Wright) during Operation Midland were credulous and sensationalising, and the Mail‘s sister paper the Mail on Sunday ran several articles uncritically amplifying Wiltshire Police’s ludicrous probe into Heath – the editor at the time was Geordie Greig, who now edits the Mail. The Mail has also run at least one story co-authored by a freelancer who is close to one of the Daniel Morgan murder suspects. In contrast, the Mail has been supportive of Doreen Lawrence for many years, in 1997 famously denouncing her son’s killers by name and daring them to sue for libel.

As the former associate Guardian editor Michael White noted in May, “We all reach our own compromises on media”. I’m frequently appalled by how stories are framed by Mail titles, but dud articles have to be pulled apart on an individual basis. A blanket dismissal that says “it’s in the Daily Mail, it can’t be true” is simply inadequate given the resources at the paper’s disposal. Stephen Wright appears to be doing a sterling job holding the Metropolitan Police to account, and anyone who is offered such a huge platform would be ill-advised to turn it down just because the paper is not to their taste.

There are, though, a couple of points I would add:

1. Although the campaigners are focused on the Metropolitan Police, the issues arising are of relevance to the public across the country. McManus refers to Wiltshire Police’s Operation Conifer, and Gambaccini’s experiences are comparable to those of Cliff Richard, who was persecuted by South Yorkshire Police. Bad practice is likely to be pervasive.

2. It should be remembered that for every high profile botched case involving the most serious crimes and allegations we can assume dozens of lesser cases, often with more ambiguous outcomes where journalists may be less inclined to take up the cause.

London: Third Week of Targeted Protests By Anti-Vaxxers Dressed in Black

From BBC News:

Four officers have been injured during clashes with anti-vaccine protesters in central London, the Met Police said.

…Demonstrators tried to storm the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) headquarters in central London. Protesters then moved to South Kensington.

…The protest comes after journalists working for ITN were trapped in their offices when a group of anti-vaccine and anti-lockdown protesters forced their way into the broadcaster’s London headquarters on 23 August.

That followed an incident two week before when a crowd thought to be made up of anti-vaccine protesters tried to gain access to the BBC’s old headquarters in White City, west London.

Social media clips show that this was pretty much the same crowd at each event, dressed predominately in black and not carrying placards. As at the BBC protest (blogged here), there was at least one attendee wearing the red beret of the Parachute Regiment; another regular, described as a ringleader, is noted in a Twitter thread here. After proceeding from the MHRA building in Canary Wharf the main target in South Kensington was reportedly the Science Museum (presumably because it hosts an NHS vaccination centre), but there was also a more general melee at South Kensington tube station and at the south end of Exhibition Road.

Although the protests are primarily anti-vax (or toned down to “anti-vaccine passports” for some audiences), there are also QAnon-adjacent grievances: thus at last week’s ITN protest in Gray’s Inn Road, when the Channel 4 newsreader Jon Snow was spotted entering the ITN building by a side entrance he was accosted by a protestor who called him “rat” who didn’t “speak up for the children”. Another shouted after him “Are you a paedophile, Jon?”. The BBC’s Marianna Spring recognised one of these protestors:

The man featured here at 14 minutes told our team that we should be executed for crimes against humanity. He then posted on Instagram calling me a rat.

He has appeared at these rallies a number of times promoting online conspiracies and violent rhetoric.

Noting yesterday’s MHRA protest she now adds:

Violence from protesters is escalating – and increasingly organised. Telegram channels discuss weapons and use threatening language about executions. This is a topic I’m continuing to report on in the coming months.

Vulnerable Woman Tells of “Devastation and Fury” at Exploitation by Satanic Ritual Abuse Obsessives

Private Eye magazine has a new article (Issue 1555, page 38) about Wilfred Wong and Janet Stevenson, two Satanic Ritual Abuse obsessives who are currently in prison awaiting sentencing following a delusional child “rescue” during which Wong threatened a woman with a knife. The magazine has been contacted by a woman from Brighton whose husband appeared as a witness at the trial, during which he testified that Wong had attempted to recruit him as the getaway driver:

He told the court he and his wife were church goers and his wife had been in touch with Wong via social networks, trying to understand the cause of her own childhood abuse. Wong put her in touch with Stevenson who reinforced the idea she was a victim of Satanists. This extremely vulnerable woman, who cannot be named, has been in contact with the Eye and told of her devastation and fury that she was exploited and misled by Wong and Stevenson.

I discussed this previously here. The Eye also notes that Stevenson

advertised her services on Twitter as “Catalysing positive growth and healing through coaching and counselling, Christian. Works with Trauma, DID.”… The court heard Stevenson specialised in working with “victims of satanic abuse” whom Wilfred Wong referred to her.

“DID” here refers to “dissociative identity disorder”, formerly known as “multiple personality disorder” and a contested diagnosis frequently associated by believers with ritual abuse claims. Stevenson was based in Crawley, and so would have been accessible from Brighton.

One question this raises, of course, is how many other vulnerable adults have been “exploited and misled” by Stevenson and by other counsellors and therapists obsessed with the idea that child sex abuse is evidence of secret Satanic cabals – a belief which, when accepted by the patient, in turn reinforces the therapist’s own worldview (I looked at one example here). It’s not known with what strand of Christianity Stevenson is affiliated, but it’s likely that she adheres to a form of dualism in which Christians, identified with absolute good, see themselves as engaged in spiritual warfare against absolute evil, imagined simplistically as a literal inversion of Christian belief and practices. (1)

The article also mentions Jeanette Archer, noting that earlier this year

she was charged with disobeying a court order banning publication of information which could identify the abducted child. In February she pleaded guilty at Mold magistrates’ court to breaching a direction under the Youth Justice an Criminal Evidence Act.

Archer has in recent weeks led a number of protests in London alleging widespread Satanic Ritual Abuse, including one that shut down traffic on Tower Bridge, and her increasing militancy may to some extent be a reaction to Wong’s failure and disgrace (as well as her own claims coming under scrutiny). The Tower Bridge protest began outside Freemasons’ Hall near Covent Garden, and included a speech by one Morven Fyfe, a qualified psychotherapist who cited the Tavistock Centre and the publisher Routledge as evidence that SRA claims have academic standing. Real Troll Exposure notes that Fyfe at one time held a company directorship with the Joan Coleman of Ritual Abuse Information Network and Support, whose infamous RAINS List of famous people who are or were allegedly secret Satanic abusers is one of the more influential documents in British SRA conspiricism (there is no suggestion that Fyfe has any association with Wong or Stevenson).

Note

(1) Although Stevenson is a Christian, this is not the only ideological motivator of Satanic Ritual Abuse conspiracy beliefs. In particular, despite the SRA panic of the 1980s in part being a conservative reaction against the rise of day-care services for working mothers, SRA claims have also been accepted by radical feminists who take the view that it is wrong on principle to express agnosticism or scepticism about even the most outlandish and inconsistent allegations. Being “in the know” as regards Satanic conspiracies also adds an extra layer of meaning and significance to the grim reality of sex abuse, and so appeals in the same way as other conspiracy theories.

Satanic Ritual Abuse Protestors Block London Traffic

A Tweet from the City of London Police, yesterday:

Traffic on @TowerBridge is currently at a standstill due to an ongoing protest.

Please avoid the area if possible, and check back here for updates.

The protest did not generate any media coverage, but a livestream shows that it was the tail-end of a QAnon-adjacent anti-Satanic Ritual Abuse march led by Jeanette Archer, who has become a familiar figure at recent anti-vax events in central London. The group of a hundred or so had gathered in Bow Street, adjacent to the Royal Opera House, and then proceeded along to Freemasons’ Hall, where they harassed security guards, covered the door in stickers, and made speeches in doggerel (“…all your evil deeds / now God has called his people / to bring you to your knees”).

They then moved south down Drury Lane to Aldwych and across Waterloo Bridge, and then east along the South Bank towards Southwark Cathedral. People dining al fresco were subjected to a barrage of lurid claims shouted through megaphones, including “paedophile pizza place” outside a Pizza Express. Further speeches followed outside Southwark Cathedral, during which sceptical laughter from passers-by was met with verbal aggression. They then made their way to City Hall, base of London Mayor Sadiq Khan. Here, there was a half-hearted attempt to break in, January 6 style, but security guards were unmoved by the promise that they would be held accountable for “crimes against humanity” for protecting Khan and the attempt fizzled out. By the time the mob had reached Tower Bridge, they had been on the move for several hours.

A leaflet given out by the group advertised Joan Coleman’s notorious RAINS list, and referred readers to an online interview between “SRA expert and wrongfully imprisoned Wilfred Wong and EX DC Jon Wedger” – Wedger has also previously interviewed Archer, but in recent weeks he has been conspicuous by his absence at protests he has done so much to fuel. Wong was recently convicted of abducting a child a knifepoint during a botched “rescue” that he disavowed in court, shamelessly lying that he had simply been accepting a lift from his co-conspirators.

The leaflet also included a quote taken from a recent Facebook post by the forensic psychologist Dr Jessica Taylor:

Satanic sexual abuse is real I’ve worked with victims myself. I’ve also worked with covert terms who investigate these cults and organised groups.

I hate the way people invalidate and ignore victims of satanic ritual abuse – so I’m publicly standing up.

Taylor did not have any involvement in the protest, although one of the speakers outside Freemasons’ Hall identified herself as a psychotherapist and told the crowds that SRA has academic standing, with books having been published by Routledge.

Further Notes on the Lies of Wilfred Wong

Sussex Live has some more details about Satanic Ritual Abuse fanatic Wilfred Wong’s explanation for his involvement in a child kidnap conspiracy (previously discussed here):

Wong maintained he travelled by train to Bangor for a short break, to do some walking and enjoy the scenery.

He’d arranged a lift back south with husband and wife Edward and Janet Stevenson, a counsellor from Crawley…

Wong had slept under a tree and then crossed into Anglesey, he said.

Near the Britannia Bridge he found some apparently dumped items including a knife, mask and cable ties.

Having got into the back of the Stevensons’ car, alongside him were two strangers – a woman and child. “I didn’t have any cause for concern,” he remarked.

This, of course, was a pack of lies: Wong owned the kidnap kit items, and he used the knife both to terrorise the child’s foster mother and to slash her tyres. The other woman in the car was already known to him, and was also part of the conspiracy. Wong had plotted the kidnap with the Stevensons and others – his account in court was flatly contradicted by other testimony and forensic evidence, and was so transparent that one wonders why he thought it would do him any good.

Of course, some criminals may tell obvious lies in court out of desperation or simply because dishonesty is a way of life, but in this instance I wonder if the reason was because Wong’s self-regard is so grandiose that he expected to be believed. After all, his outlandish claims about Satanic Ritual Abuse have been taken at face value by evangelicals for years, and in recent months he had been fêted by online conspiracy mongers such as Jon Wedger and Shaun Attwood.

Wong’s lies are also significant, though, in that they make a mockery of his supposedly devout evangelical Christianity. I had every expectation that he would offer a defence of justification, doubling down on his Satanic Ritual Abuse claims. Instead, he threw his co-conspirators under the bus, despite having led them into disaster.

An article on North Wales Live (syndicated from the Daily Post) has further details about testimony from an unnamed Brighton man who was approached by Wong but declined to become involved in the conspiracy. The man’s wife apparently believes she was subjected to Satanic Ritual Abuse as a child, and she had found Wong online:

Barrister Justin Hugheston-Roberts, defending Janet Stevenson, asked him: “Were you or your wife praying for a man that you said was trying to abduct a child?”

The Brighton man said: “She had an emotional relationship with Wilfred and Janet. As time went on, she became more detached from him, and saw things in a different light.”

The barrister, quoting from a statement, asked if he was “praying that prison staff would see what a kind and generous man he (Wong) was”?

The Brighton man said he was not aware of that but it “sounds like my wife. She regarded Wilfred as her godfather.”

The barrister: “Were you concerned at what you perceived to be the influence he was having over her?”

The Brighton man: “After a while, yes.”

The barrister: “She was looking for someone to help her because of the sexual abuse she had suffered as a child and she believed it had been sexual abuse by Satanists?”

“Yes.”

This gives some sense of the group dynamic, and how it was that Wong was able to persuade several mature adults with decades of life experience and previous good character to enter into a self-destructive criminal conspiracy. Had they evaded arrest, they would all have been even more under his power. His paranoid stories of the ubiquity of Satanism remind me of how the conman Robert Hendy-Freegard persuaded a group of people for years that the IRA were after them, as well of a case I encountered in which a man claiming expertise in Islamic extremism persuaded activists to embark on fools’ errands around the country.

The consequences of Wong’s scheming have been grave. First and foremost, of course, a child has been traumatised. However, the Stevensons at their time of life ought to have been looking forward to years of retirement together, rather than public disgrace and lengthy separation in prison. In the case of another couple who were suckered in, the male partner, Robert Frith, died while on remand – he was 65 years old and a retired nurse, and doubtless never imagined ending up in such a place.

Some Notes on the BBC Television Centre Protestors

From the Guardian:

Confused anti-vaccine protesters stormed what they thought was a major BBC building on Monday, apparently unaware the corporation largely moved out almost a decade ago.

Rather than target the BBC’s news operation, which they hold responsible for promoting Covid-19 vaccines, a handful of protesters gained access to Television Centre in west London, which is now predominantly rented by ITV to film its daytime shows such as Good Morning Britain and This Morning.

This takes at face value that the protest organisers made a mistake, but we shouldn’t discount other possibilities. One video clip I saw on social media shows Piers Corbyn telling some of those present that the building is easier to get into than Broadcasting House; if the point is primarily to build a movement and create a symbolic spectacle (and perhaps to trial for something bigger later), then the location was a softer choice. A smaller number of protestors did proceed to Broadcasting House (as also happened in June on the back of an earlier anti-vax protest), but it doesn’t look like they attempted anything there. (1)

The Guardian report is less informative than an article from Mail Online, which has screenshots and details about some of the organisers:

The protest, organised by anti-lockdown group Official Voice, is believed to have been directed against vaccine passports and jabs for children.

…One of the ringleaders appeared to be DJ Pat Wilson, who proudly posted a picture of himself on Instagram holding up his ‘demands’ inside the building.

…On its Instagram page, Official Voice said the ‘media is the problem’ and proclaimed that ‘the lies will end’ as it urged supporters to descend on London for today’s protest from as early as July 27.

There, they were filmed clashing with police outside the building, with at least one of the protesters wearing a beret as they tussled with officers.

The protest seems to have been carefully “branded” – most of the crowd wore black or dark grey, and a few wore t-shirts bearing an Official Voice logo. Notably, there did not appear to be any placards.

The report also notes “at least one of the protesters wearing a beret”, by which the authors mean a maroon beret bearing the badge of the Parachute Regiment. There were two individuals dressed this way; according to the Daily Telegraph, the “airborne forces community” has identified them as Marco Bruin, who “was a member of Support Company in 2PARA”, and Ricky Regan, who “was discharged from the army in 2011 for refusing to deploy to Afghanistan”. One of the two men appears to have confronted Piers Corbyn over the recent sting in which Corbyn was filmed accepting what he thought was a brown envelope of cash, and a social media clip shows Corbyn talking him round. Another clip shows that the man was also wearing a jacket bearing the words “Sin Eaters Guild”, which denotes a mainstream veterans’ charity.

The crowd’s hostility to the BBC was also apparent as the crowd headed along Oxford Street towards Broadcasting House, during which a TV reporter and camera-operator were abused on the assumption that they were with the corporation. The reporter complained on Twitter that she was “booed and harassed by masses, told to go back to where I come from and having my camera op almost assaulted if it wasn’t for a fellow journo saying we are not the BBC” – in fact, she actually identified herself as being with RT, after which the crowd became more supportive, referring to the channel’s reporting on Julian Assange. The incident recalls the harassment in June of the BBC Newsnight editor Nick Watt.

Some of the abuse was simply crude, but the insult “pedo-protector” was also thrown – presumably this refers to claims about the BBC and Jimmy Savile, and given that the upcoming tenth anniversary of Savile’s death has already provided a hook for new documentaries about him this line of attack is likely to intensify in the weeks and months ahead.

Note

1. A Twitter feed claiming to represent Official Voice states that “they are not an anti-vax movement, they are a TRUTH movement”. They also reject the claim that they targeted the old BBC Television Centre in error.

Satanic Ritual Abuse Fanatic Wilfred Wong Guilty of Conspiracy to Kidnap a Child

From North Wales Live:

A man who helped abduct a child and threatened a foster mum with a knife claimed the courts and social services are “infiltrated by Satanists”.

Wilfred Wong’s outlandish claims where made on a YouTube video and played to a jury at a Caernarfon Crown Court trial.

Wong, 56, from London was later convicted of conspiring to kidnap a child who he wrongly believed was at risk of falling into a Satanist’s hands.

Sentencing will take place next month. It is notable that the devout evangelical Wong did not offer a defence of justification, or even of mitigation that he had made an honest mistake. Instead, as reported by the BBC, he

denied any involvement, saying he was in north Wales for a short walking holiday and had arranged to get a lift back…

He told the court: “I’d have been more of a liability than a help with any abduction plan. I would have been too old and too slow for that sort of thing.”

The “lift” was with Janet and Edward Stevenson, who have also been found guilty. Janet Stevenson, according to the BBC, is “a counsellor who specialises in working with victims of satanic abuse” – an unfortunate phrase that takes at face value a victim identity that is often coaxed into being by therapists obsessed with the subject (as I discussed here). Several other individuals who were drawn into Wong’s kidnap caper have also either pleaded guilty or been found guilty, and one, a former nurse, died while on remand last November.

Wong is a veteran Satanic Ritual Abuse fanatic; he featured in a sceptical Daily Telegraph article (“The People who Believe that Satanists Might Eat Your Baby“, by Damian Thompson) way back in 2002 as the organiser of a conference on the subject that took place at the Palace of Westminster while he was working for Lord Alton as Parliamentary Officer for the Jubilee Campaign (1). In recent years, he has contributed articles about SRA to religious outlets such as the English Churchman and Heart Publications, and in 2017 he also presented at a pseudo-academic conference on the subject in London.

So why was it only recently that Wong decided to cross the line from merely going on about Satanic Ritual Abuse to actually breaking the law in such a serious and tragic way? Perhaps he had reached a time in his life when he felt he had to do something to make his mark in some concrete way before he really does become too old; but he may also have felt spurred on and validated by the mainstreaming of conspiracy thinking over the last decade. In 2019 he was sought out by Jon Wedger, and their interview was promoted by David Icke. In 2020 he also did two interviews with Shaun Attwood. And even now he has his supporters within the conspiracy milieu, who can easily assimilate any counter-evidence into a grand theory of Satanic manipulation.

Note

1. A 2018 profile of Wong in the evangelical magazine Prophecy Today states that his interest in SRA “began in 1993 when he was approached by an MP on the matter”. It’s not clear why the MP is not named, but Louise Dickens (var. Lou Dickens) has reportedly confirmed on a podcast called the Jimmy O Show that this was her grandfather Geoffrey Dickens.

The Prophecy Today profile, by Paul Luckraft, adds that

SRA is far more prevalent than is ever reported, and… is growing in the UK… Since the revelations concerning Jimmy Savile became public knowledge there has been an increasing acceptance that SRA does exist and needs to be countered. Some of the UK media have reported on Savile’s involvement in Satanism and SRA.

The profile also includes a well-known photo of Savile with Edward Heath.

Li-Meng Yan Accuses Former Associate Wengui Guo of Persecution

From Li-Meng Yan‘s Twitter account:

Miles, Wengui Guo 郭文貴 sent his followers to my home for “protest”, using the same smears as CCP’s propaganda!
Police/FBI are investigating.
Miles threatened to “send”me back to HK & @lude_media to China.
How could he do it without help from CCP Ministry of State Security?!

Yan is famous as the proponent of the most far-reaching Covid-19 “Wuhan lab escape” scenario. According to her, the the coronavirus was created and released deliberately as a bioweapon, and its artificial and chimerical nature is blatantly obvious. Scientists who say otherwise are likely beholden to the Chinese Communist Party.

The above Tweet is of interest because it was Guo who originally brought Li to the public’s attention – with the help of Steve Bannon – via a shadowy “Rule of Law Society” and “Rule of Law Foundation”. The reason for the apparent fall-out remains opaque. The reference to Lude Media is also significant: “Lude”, who was famous for promoting the most sensational claims regarding Hunter Biden’s laptop ahead of the last election, has been one of Guo’s closest allies. On 1 August Yan also Tweeted:

LuDe Media is under huge attacks from CCP agents Miles Guo, YanPing Wang & cyber army!
As the 1st media revealed CCP’s unrestricted Bioweapon #COVID19, LuDe keeps telling the truth to millions of Chinese and the world!

The first Yan Tweet quoted above also embedded a Tweet by one Lawrence Sellin, a former reserve colonel who served in Afghanistan but who in 2010 was reportedly “kicked out of that country for writing an editorial about how much he hates PowerPoint”. Sellin now contributes to fringe-right websites, and he is looking forward to election audits that will lead to the return of Trump to power and Joe Biden fleeing to Beijing. His Tweets in support of Yan include criticism of Bannon:

Bannon has done & said NOTHING to defend his “War Room 2020 Woman of the Year” Dr. Li-Meng Yan, who was forced to obtain armed security & relocate after being viciously smeared & threatened by Bannon‘s close associate reputed CCP agent Miles Guo Wengui & his cult followers

One reason why Sellin believes that Guo is a “CCP agent” despite his ostensible opposition to China’s regime is because he has apparently recently pivoted to supporting Biden, stating that

Confirmed by our intelligence, the Biden Administration didn’t collude with the CCP. We therefore suggest our fellow fighters not to post any negative content about President Biden and his family.

Assuming this statement is genuine (and there is a subtitled video), this looks likes “Vicar of Bray” opportunism more than anything else.

Yan has also expressed gratitude to Sellin for having “defeated the active CCP agent 张洵 @ericxunzhang”; this is a reference to Eric Zhang, apparently a Chinese Christian based in Chicago. Last September Zhang Tweeted at Franklin Graham after Graham referred to Yan, writing:

Dear Brother, I’ve been following this case closely & can tell you Dr Yan is a sheer liar, and the whole thing is a setup by Steve Bannon. I’m a Christian, a conservative Chn American & a 100% Trump supporter (in that order). I was also serving at board of OK Baptist (BGCO) …

Zhang has since deleted his Twitter account, but on his website (in Chinese) he says that he has quit Twitter because of false CCP allegations by Guo rather than by Sellin (Guo has also famously accused the Texas-based Pastor Bob Fu of being a CCP agent – Fu has reciprocated, and is suing).

Note

Yan’s original Twitter account @LiMengYAN119 was suspended last year; a new account using the name @DrLiMengYAN1 was created in October. Although it does not have a blue tick, it has been cited extensively in the media (including e.g. this trailer for a Fox interview with Tucker Carlson) and can be taken as genuine.

A Note on Chris Fay, the Media and Mark Williams-Thomas

From ex-police officer turned journalist Mark Williams-Thomas on Twitter:

Article : Labour were REAL villains of child sex abuse scandal. I have not spoken formally about this before but whilst in police we investigated Chris Fay’s many allegations in the early 2000’s and established their [sic] was no evidence to support his claims [Link to Daily Mail article by Dominic Lawson]

The Lawson article linked to by Williams-Thomas responds to recent findings by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse that abuse and exploitation had been rife in children’s homes controlled by the notoriously left-wing Lambeth Council in the 1970s and 1980s. As Lawson notes:

The IICSA concluded that Lambeth council ‘treated children in their care as if they were worthless’ and showed ‘callous disregard’ by ‘putting vulnerable children in the path of sex offenders’ who infiltrated those institutions.

Lawson goes on to discuss similar failings in Islington, which had been covered by the Daily Mail in mid-2015 as part of the paper’s campaign against Jeremy Corbyn, the local MP and before that an Islington councillor. Both situations are then contrasted with the concocted allegations against prominent figures in the Conservative Party:

Yet one Labour MP did ‘weaponise’ the issue of child sex abuse: this was the then deputy leader of the party, Tom Watson. He was tireless in linking it to the Conservatives, at the highest level.

…what was the origin of the spurious claims against the blameless [Leon] Brittan? It turns out to have been a concoction of a former London Labour councillor called Chris Fay, who also invented the hoax that child abuse by leading Tories took place at the Elm Guest House in South-West London.

…Fay, who in 2011 was jailed for fraud after conning pensioners out of almost £300,000, admitted in 2015 that he had passed his allegations about Leon Brittan to Tom Watson. He also confessed he had been ‘a very Left-wing Labour councillor’ who enjoyed ‘on a political level’ the accusations of child abuse made against prominent Conservatives.

That would be the same hoax that the Daily Mail reported in early 2013 as “Timebomb at Elm Guest House: Pop stars, a bishop and a top politician appear on a list seized by police investigating child abuse at the London hotel in the 1980s”. Fay does not appear in that particular piece (by Stephen Wright and Richard Pendlebury), although a follow-up article two days later (curiously without any byline) refers to

former child protection worker Chris Fay, who says he was shown photos of children dressed up at ‘Kings and Queens parties’ at the guest house. One photograph is said to show a former Tory Cabinet minister in a sauna with a naked 14-year-old boy.

Nearly two years later, in late 2014, an article by the paper’s crime correspondent Rebecca Camber and headed “Officers claim covert investigations were shut down as they closed in on Establishment figures” included the detail that

child protection campaigner Chris Fay, of the now-defunct National Association of Young People in Care, said a Special Branch detective held a gun to his head, telling him to stop investigating an alleged paedophile ring at Elm Guest House in south-west London.

This was all despite the fact that Fay’s fraud conviction had been reported by BBC News in 2011; it seems it wasn’t realised at the time that this was the same person, although the identification was in the public domain by October 2013. During the same period, Fay was also appearing in other newspapers; in early 2014 James Fielding at the Daily Express ran an article about an accuser who “is being helped by anti-abuse campaigners Bill Maloney and Chris Fay” (in fact, video evidence shows that the the accuser was being aggressively coached by Maloney, with Fay present).

So why didn’t Mark Williams-Thomas speak out the time, if he was already aware that Chris Fay’s claims had been investigated and found to be lacking in substance? Williams-Thomas also posted two other Tweets directly following the one above, which for some reason he then deleted:

Which is why I was totally dismissive and told the Met police this around 12 years later (2012) when they so adamantly believed Carl Beech . I had heard nearly all the allegations before , investigated them and found them almost all entirely baseless [Previously here]

I had audio tapes in 2000 with almost all the same claims Fay was making in 2012 which the Met police took as correct when Carl Beech started repeating them – regarding Elm House , Lord Britain [sic] and murder of child and mass child abuse image ring [Previously here]

The tapes are mentioned in an article critical of Williams-Thomas that was published by the Mail on Sunday (which is editorially independent of the Daily Mail) in 2018 (and previously discussed by me here). The authors, David Rose and Rosie Waterhouse, explained that in 1990 Fay had introduced a source named “David” to a journalist named Gill Priestly:

In a series of taped interviews with her, David made astonishing claims: that he had been sexually assaulted by Lord Brittan, and ‘trafficked’ to Amsterdam, where he was forced to watch as children were raped and murdered to make ‘snuff’ porn movies.

Police documents disclosed by the Crown Prosecution Service and seen by this newspaper say Priestly played her tapes to Williams-Thomas while he was a serving police officer. The papers say that at the time police took no action and that in 2002, after Williams-Thomas left the police, she gave some of her tapes to him for ‘safe keeping’.

According to Rose and Waterhouse, “police records” say that Williams-Thomas played these tapes to Detective Superintendent David Gray at the ITV studies in 2013. However, DCI Paul Settle, the Metropolitan Police officer tasked with investigating Brittan under Gray’s direction, was unimpressed:

Mr Settle said: ‘We had already finished with [the accuser] David, but here was Williams-Thomas apparently trying to reincarnate him as a witness. It was quite apparent the tapes were the musings of a fantasist.’

Settle later quit the force, alleging that he had been pressured into participating in a “witch hunt”. But why would Williams-Thomas have provided these tapes if he was of the view that the allegations were of no value? And how did it then happen – as reported by Rose and Waterhouse – that David afterwards became central to South Yorkshire Police’s disastrous investigation into Cliff Richard?