• First published in 2004 as Bartholomew’s Notes on Religion (BNOR).

    Previously at:

    Email me
    (Non-commercial only)

  • Archives

  • Twitter

  • Supporting

  • Recent comments

Tom Newton Dunn and “Hijacked Labour”: Still No Answers One Year On

On Twitter, three left-wing journalists (Ash Sarkar, Owen Jones and Ellie Mae O’Hagan) remonstrate with former Sun political editor Tom Newton Dunn over his promotion a year ago of a bizarre conspiracy chart called “Hijacked Labour”:

Newton Dunn responded to the above (also highlighted by others as “Tom Newton Dunn Day”) by blocking Jones; some journalists apparently consider Jones’s subsequent complaint about this reaction to be more worthy of commentary than Newton Dunn’s continuing failure to account for how the “Hijacked Labour” story came to be published or why it was then deleted. To date, Newton Dunn’s only public comments on the matter are correctives to the claim that he promoted a neo-Nazi website, rather than a site that included some neo-Nazi sources.

The chart, as I have mentioned before, was self-evidently a crank effusion that made connections that were either banal, inexplicable or simply wrong (a point overshadowed by revulsion at its use of far-right sources). One link led to the actor Matt Berry, while a bizarre emphasis was placed on the supposed influence of the deceased French philosophers Michel Foucault, Jean-François Lyotard and Jacques Derrida. At least one person named on the chart complained about their inclusion: this was a doctor named David Rouse, who stated that “I quit labour the moment Corbyn got in as I disagree with his politics. So looks like they need to try and get their facts right”. The Sun published only a low-resolution blurry screenshot, I suspect because Newton Dunn knew that it could not withstand scrutiny.

Newton Dunn’s story was headlined “Ex-British intelligence officers say Jeremy Corbyn is at the centre of a hard-left extremist network”. Presented as leading the supposed group of officers was one “Mark Bles”, the pen-name of a former SAS soldier turned author named Mark Whitcombe-Power. IPSO rejected a complaint that an SAS soldier should not be described as an “intelligence officer”, on the grounds that members of the unit may undertake surveillance work, and the press regulator also judged that the word “say” distanced the paper from the claims being made. Crucially, the Sun was not asked by IPSO to substantiate the existence of “intelligence officers” in the plural, even though that central detail is presented as established fact in the headline.

However, although it’s tempting to see secretive propaganda outfits lurking behind the scenes, one would hope that an operation connected to intelligence agencies would have done a more competent job. The truth is shabbier. Prior to the appearance of the “Hijacked Labour” website, a previous version of the same chart was hosted at a site called “Traitors’ Chart”. The repackaging occurred days before Newton Dunn’s story was published, and it was only with the Sun story that Bles became publicly associated with the project. As such, it seems that his involvement from this point both obscures the chart’s actual provenance and gives it more credible pedigree. If Bles – retired and living in France – was induced to be the front-man in good faith, it would be very difficult for Newton Dunn to now give an explanation about what actually happened.

Clues to the true provenance of the chart are traced in Daniel Trilling’s Guardian piece linked to by Sarkar and Jones. There are also some details on a Twitter thread by a researcher named Steve Rose. His Tweets include a video with a distinctive voice-over that was created to publicise the “Traitors Chart” version of the chart.

On the one hand, the story is not going away. But on the other, as noted by another Twitter user, “What’s kind of amazing is that Tom Newton Dunn’s strategy of ‘just pretend/insist that it didn’t happen’ has actually been completely successful”.

Lin Wood “Paedophilia and Satanic Worship” Claim Promoted Online

Comment made on “business coach” entrepreneur radio show

A quote from Atlanta attorney L. Lin Wood:

So there is potentially a great awakening. The truth has to come out. I believe it will. I do not think that you can hide the truth. I do say it and I believe it, every lie will be revealed. This country’s going to be shocked when the find the truth about who’s been occupying the Oval Office for some periods of years. They’re going to be shocked at the level of pedophilia. They are going to be shocked at what I believe is going to be a revelation in terms of people who are engaged in satanic worship.

Wood made the comment during a radio interview a couple of weeks ago, and it has more recently been extracted from it and is now being passed around on social media.

In context, the above is simply a reflection of what passes for received wisdom within Lin’s Christian fundamentalist conspiracy milieu, but due to his current association with Sidney Powell and the pursuit of election fraud lawsuits his statement is being taken as an authoritative promise of shocking revelations from someone “in the know”. The reference to a “great awakening”, of course, evokes the QAnon conspiracy theory.

Wood (whose fondness for referring to Kamala Harris as “Cabala Harris” I noted previously) was speaking on a programme called the ThriveTime Show, which describes itself as a “Business Coach Program… founded by former United States Small Business Administration Entrepreneur of the Year and current member of the Forbes Coaches Council, Clay Clark.” Clark’s introduction referred to the “Satanic Luciferian Left”, and the episode’s webpage has a list of links to sites promoting election fraud claims. The episode itself is titled “BOMBSHELL VOTER FRAUD REVEALED!!! | LIN WOOD EXPOSES VOTER FRAUD AND SHARES HOW KYLE RITTENHOUSE IS OUT OF JAIL IN TIME FOR THANKSGIVING!!!”, and the “satanic worship” comment comes at about 40 minues in.

Clark and his ThiveTime Show associate “optometrist turned entrepreneur, Doctor Robert Zoellner” appear to be celebrities within the “motivational entrepreneur” / “business guru” subculture, with an impressive back-catalogue of guests ranging from Ken Blanchard and John Maxwell to Horst Schulze to Ken Auletta and many more besides (including a few pastors). Yet the show’s “business podcast” in recent weeks is a slew of conspiracy content about supposed voter fraud and Covid-19 vaccines. Among those featured is Charlie Ward, a British QAnon influencer.

There is also religious content, with Clark having an “urgent prophetic message for President Donald J. Trump” that he says he was told to convey by the late Kim Clement, a neo-Pentecostal evangelist whose 2007 claim that “Trump will become a trumpet” has since been taken as a prophecy of the Trump presidency (discussed further here).

Influencers promoting Wood’s “satanic worship” comment on social media include Boris Johnson’s former mistress Jennifer Arcuri; it is perhaps relevant here to note that the Digital Marketing Manager at her Hacker House company was Wesley Hall, a promoter the Hampstead Satanic Ritual Abuse hoax.

A Note on Lin Wood and the “Cabala Harris” Nickname

From Capital Beat News Service, earlier this month:

Republican leaders in Georgia delivered different responses Friday to President Donald Trump’s claims of voting irregularities

…Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel…. was joined at the podium by former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, Trump’s agriculture secretary; outgoing state Rep. Vernon Jones; and attorney Lin Wood, who intentionally mispronounced Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris’ name as “Cabala” Harris during his remarks.

Wood has now achieved greater prominence after stating that he has been working closely with Sidney Powell, the former federal prosecutor whose wide-ranging and conspiratorial claims of electoral fraud have been eagerly embraced by many Trump supporters (but that have apparently proven too extravagant for Trump himself). In the wake of his announcement, Wood has made a further reference to “Cabala Harris” on his Twitter feed, which also includes numerous Biblical quotes and religious exhortations.

Apparently, the abusive nickname has been going around for some time. It’s significance is not simply wilfully ignorant mockery of an unusual name (as in Georgia Senator David Perdue’s “Kamala-mala-mala”) or some vague allusion to a “Deep State” cabal – it is pointedly meant to associate Harris with the Jewish mystical tradition. Other, more explicit, variants on Twitter include “Kabbalah Heiress” and even “Kabbalah Haaretz”, referring to the left-of-centre Israeli newspaper. These must be allusions to the fact that Harris’s husband is Jewish, and there is a wider context here in that kabbalah is regarded with suspicion by many evangelicals, who see its esoteric doctrines and practices as occultism rather than spiritual exercise. The implication is that Harris is some kind of witch, embroiled with malign supernatural forces and hidden networks through her Jewish husband.

As such, it is surprising that Wood’s “Cabala” rhetoric has not drawn more adverse comment.

Footnote: The Capital Beat News Service report refers to “Kalama Harris”; this has been silently corrected in the above quote.

Public Figures and Fringe Media: A Note on Martin Kulldorff and the Richie Allen Show

From the Guardian:

Anti-lockdown advocate appears on radio show that has featured Holocaust deniers

Dr Martin Kulldorff discussed ‘Great Barrington declaration’ letter on Richie Allen Show

…When asked by the Guardian about his appearance on the show, Kulldorff said: “As a public health professional, it is critically important to reach all segments of the population.

“I have appeared in both right (eg the Spectator) and left media (eg Jacobin) … Regarding the Richie Allen Show, I had never heard of it before they invited me.”

Kulldorff is professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and a biostatistician and epidemiologist. The article notes that the show has previously featured the Holocaust deniers Nick Kollerstrom and Alison Chabloz, as well as “longstanding conspiracy theorists Dr Vernon Coleman and Piers Corbyn” – Allen, a protégé of David Icke, called Kollerstrom an “old friend”. The story has also been picked by the Jewish Chronicle.

The headline, it seems to me, unfairly gives the impression of some sort of affinity between Kulldorff and extremism, when I think we can take him at his word that he knew nothing about Richie Allen when he agreed to talk to him.

At the same time, though, it is a strategy of bad actors involved with alternative media and the conspiracy milieu to elicit content from more mainstream figures as a way to boost their own reach and credibility. When this happens, it is appropriate to ask the guest contributor to clarify their association and where exactly they stand. Appearing on the Richie Allen Show ought to be a reputational risk for anyone who wants to be taken seriously in public life.

Previous guests on the Richie Allen Show with reputations beyond the conspiracy milieu include Michael Mansfield, Ann Widdecombe and Maggie Oliver. Oliver in particular is much lauded as “the Rochdale whistleblower”, yet she frequently accepts interview requests from bad actors, whose sites she then amplifies on social media. Yet there seems to be less appetite for criticising “the angel of the North” than for going after a lockdown sceptic. (1)


1. The “Great Barrington Declaration” is a creation of the American Institute for Economic Research, which is based in Great Barrington in Massachusetts. It claims to have the support of a large number of medical experts, although it has transpired that anyone can sign the document online without having their identity or credentials checked. When a journalist named Nafeez Ahmed demonstrated how easily a false name can be added, the AIER’s Editorial Director Jeffrey Tucker accused him of having “urged his followers to commit fraud and impersonate medical doctors and scientists”.

Some Notes on Laurence Fox and Libel

From Sky News:

A RuPaul’s Drag Race star and a charity boss have said they are suing actor Laurence Fox for defamation following arguments on Twitter in which he called some of his critics “paedophiles”.

Fox has since deleted the tweets, but said he made the comments after being “falsely smeared as a racist” when he criticised Sainsbury’s for supporting Black History Month.

Drag star Crystal and Simon Blake, the deputy chair of Stonewall and chief executive of Mental Health First Aid England, have both said they are suing Fox.

There are shades here of Elon Musk’s similar abuse against Vernon Unsworth, which led to a legal case in Los Angeles. That libel action failed primarily because Musk’s defence successfully argued that the term “pedo guy” was an insult rather than an actual allegation, even though Musk initially doubled down and looked for substantive evidence. The defence was characterised as “JDART”, meaning “Joke that was badly received, therefore was Deleted, with an Apology, followed by Responsive Tweets to move on from the issue”.

Fox could argue along similar lines in London, and there is a semi-precedent from 2007, when a High Court ruling made a distinction between serious allegations posted to an online message board and “messages which are barely defamatory or little more than abusive or likely to be understood as jokes”. On the other hand, though, and as I’ve argued before, “paedophile” is not just some meaningless term of crude abuse like “bastard” or “wanker”. It is a highly stigmatising allegation, and a public figure being allowed to bandy it around even as a “joke” is a sinister development. “Jokes” can be a form of intimidation and incitement, and amplified by others beyond the original context may easily become established as some kind of spurious “common knowledge”.

Oddly, Fox’s outburst and its was not chronicled in the Daily Telegraph or the Sunday Telegraph, even though the two papers have spent the last two weeks puffing the actor’s political pretensions based on nothing more than the fact that a wealthy donor, Jeremy Hosking, is reportedly bankrolling his efforts to create a “UKIP for culture”. Presumably the papers have decided that the incident is not to Fox’s credit and as such is best passed over in silence.

Excursus – the “racist” allegations

Fox could of course himself sue for libel over the “racism” allegations, although the case would hinge on the defendants’ right to express a view on what kind of opinions constitute racism – nobody is accusing Fox of having said or done anything that he disputes actually happened.

It should also be noted that allegations of racism are central to Fox’s own rhetoric – the Question Time appearance that launched his new activist persona included the claim that the concept of “white privilege” is racist, and he more recently accused Rebecca Front of using a “racist phrase”. He also essentially accused Sainsbury’s of racism (“you promote racial segregation and discrimination”). This works against the suggestion that his “paedophile” Tweets were some kind of principled protest against the casual deployment of “racist” as a descriptive term.

One last point: it appears that Fox objected in particular to Sainsbury’s announcing “online support groups for black colleagues across the business”. However, he does not appear to have objected to widespread media reports that have alluded his Tweet in relation to Sainsbury’s promotion of Black History Month more generally.

Darren Grimes and the Police: Some Observations and Suggestions

From the Daily Telegraph:

Darren Grimes is being investigated by police on suspicion of stirring up racial hatred over an interview with the historian David Starkey that he published, it has emerged.

Mr Grimes, a conservative commentator, has been asked to attend a police station to be interviewed under caution after publishing a podcast in which Dr Starkey said slavery was not genocide because there are “so many damn blacks”.

…Mr Grimes is accused of a public order offence of stirring up racial hatred by publishing the interview on his podcast on July 2, The Telegraph can reveal. He has since apologised…

Grimes is framing the affair as a journalist being persecuted for a comment made by an interviewee, although his hack credentials are slight and the “interview” was a cosy chat with a man he described as being his hero.

Nevertheless, the sight of Grimes once again in the public eye as a martyr is dispiriting, and the policing priorities it exposes are disturbing. I here make a few observations.

First, the bar at which someone may be interviewed under caution is quite low. This has been obscured in recent years by sensationalising headlines and news stories, such as this one about the late Edward Heath.

Second, the police are not obligated to interview someone just because a complaint has been made. They could have decided that there was no case to answer based on the evidence already in the public domain; they could have logged Starkey’s words as a more trivial “hate incident“; or they could have given Starkey and Grimes informal “words of advice”.

Third, there is little chance of this coming to court, and Grimes may want to demonstrate that the complaint has no merit by declining to cooperate. He could do this in two ways:

(a) He could refuse to come in for a “voluntary” interview, and see if the police back down or escalate to an arrest. There is a risk to police if they make a wrongful arrest, but they can get away with threatening to make an arrest that would be wrongful, if the threat remains hypothetical because the suspect complies.

(b) He could give a “no comment” interview. Grimes is confident that he has acted within the law, and so he has no need to explain himself. It may go against his natural inclinations, and of course there is a popular conception that refusing to answer is suspicious, but a police investigation that fails without a suspect even putting forward a defence case will be exposed more unambiguously as having been deficient from the start.

Also, if Grimes provides a statement, the police can spend months mulling it over, and then announce that a “dossier” has been passed to the CPS. The CPS can then sit on it indefinitely, especially given the current circumstances. A “no comment” interview is more likely to lead to a speedy resolution.

Satanic Ritual Abuse Conspiracy Campaigner Sentenced After Harassing Judge

From the Newark Advertiser in March:

A 43-year-old man was found guilty of harassing a judge after posting video footage online and writing a blog.

Richard Carvath was arrested by Nottinghamshire Police officers on March 12, 2019, after a report he was tweeting and posting footage online of a judge.

The judge was involved with a family case in 2017 that cannot be reported on for legal reasons.

I understand that Carvath has just now – six month later – been sentenced to 20 weeks in prison. The reason for the long delay was that Carvath previously declined to make himself available for sentencing; in a video message in June, he stated mysteriously that he was “unavoidably detained on assignment” but would return in due course.

Carvath is well-known for his promotion of Satanic abuse conspiracy theories, including the Hampstead Ritual Abuse hoax – his activism here included creating and uploading a pointless video of the school at the centre of the false allegations. Last December he stood trial after accusing “a dad of abusing his own children in a satanic ritual”, although he was found not guilty; a report at the time described Carvath as claiming “to have links to a shadowy world of secret agents and military contractors”. He certainly has at least indirect links with the milieu that includes the likes of Jon Wedger and Wilfred Wong, although as far as I know they don’t appear to have commented about Carvath’s trial.

Reporting restrictions mean that I’m not linking to any of Carvath’s online writings, or going into further detail.

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

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

From the website of the Washington Prayer March 2020:

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

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

– Franklin Graham

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

A Note on Companies House Reform

From a UK Government press release:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Note on Li-Meng Yan and Social Media

From Mail Online:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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