Rash of “Lab Leak” Articles Precedes Wuhan Intelligence Declassification

From the Sunday Times “Insight” team [1], a couple of weeks ago:

Investigators who scrutinised top-secret intercepted communications and scientific research believe Chinese scientists were running a covert project of dangerous experiments, which caused a leak from the Wuhan Institute of Virology and started the Covid-19 outbreak.

The US investigators say one of the reasons there is no published information on the work is because it was done in collaboration with researchers from the Chinese military, which was funding it and which, they say, was pursuing bioweapons.

The Sunday Times has reviewed hundreds of documents, including previously confidential reports, internal memos, scientific papers and email correspondence that has been obtained through sources or by freedom of information campaigners in the three years since the pandemic started. We also interviewed the US State Department investigators — including experts on China, emerging pandemic threats, and biowarfare — who conducted the first significant US inquiry into the origins of the Covid-19 outbreak.

An image caption with the article adds that “Covid-19 is widely believed to have originated at the Wuhan Institute of Virology”, as if this is now the consensus view.

Oddly, the “investigators” are never named, although the article contains commentary from the likes of lab leak proponents such as Richard Ebright, who appears to have guided the authors through the material. Particularly conspicuous by his absence from the story is David Asher, who led the Trump-era State Department investigation into Covid origins referred to above; some details of this previously entered the public domain in 2021, such as a Mail on Sunday piece headlined “‘A Lab Leak isn’t 100% Certain but it Seems to be the Only Logical Source of Covid’: Washington Expert Who Led Inquiry into the Cause of the Virus Reveals Three Wuhan Lab Scientists Fell Ill in November 2019” [2]. This reappears in the Sunday Times article:

They found evidence that researchers working on these experiments were taken to hospital with Covid-like symptoms in November 2019 — a month before the West became aware of the pandemic — and one of their relatives died.

An investigator said: “We were rock-solid confident that this was likely Covid-19 because they were working on advanced coronavirus research in the laboratory. They’re trained biologists in their thirties and forties. Thirty-five-year-old scientists don’t get very sick with influenza.”

On Twitter, the links back to Asher were noted by Angela Rasmussen and Flo Débarre, as part of long threads critiquing the article. As judged by Rasmussen:

This “investigation” is actually just rehashing documents from the US government, including this citation-free “fact sheet” that Mike Pompeo’s state department rushed out during his last week in office.

That fact-sheet, she adds, was probably written by Asher. She and Débarre also draw attention to a 2021 critique of Asher and his investigation written by Christopher Ashley Ford, a former State Department Assistant Secretary.

A couple of days after the Sunday Times article, the New York Post reported further details about the alleged sick lab workers:

Scientists conducting research on novel coronaviruses at the Wuhan Institute of Virology were the first humans to contract COVID-19, according to a new report.

“Patients zero” included Ben Hu, Ping Yu and Yan Zhu — scientists researching SARS-like viruses at the institute, according to an investigation by journalists Michael Shellenberger and Matt Taibbi [3] published on the Substack newsletter Public.

The three scientists were researching “gain-of-function” experiments with the virus — which increases its infectiousness and makes pathogens stronger in order to better understand their dangers — when they became sick in the fall of 2019, multiple US government officials reportedly told the journalists.

This was then followed with an opinion piece a week later from Marty Makary headed “10 reasons we KNOW that COVID-19 leaked from the Wuhan Lab”, which rehashed some lab leaks “greatest hits”, oblivious to nuance or subsequent critiques.

So why were all these talking points suddenly being pushed into prominence just now? The most obvious context, as noted by Rasmussen and Peter Jacobs last week, is that US Director of National Intelligence was due to declassify intelligence assessments pertaining to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, and that the release was likely to be underwhelming as regards support for “lab leak” narratives.

And so it has come to pass – as described by Reuters:

U.S. intelligence agencies found no direct evidence that the COVID-19 pandemic stemmed from an incident at China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology, a report declassified on Friday said.

The four-page report by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) said the U.S. intelligence community still could not rule out the possibility that the virus came from a laboratory, however, and had not been able to discover the origins of the pandemic.

As for the three alleged “sick workers”, there is some suspicion that their identifications were simply pulled from online scientific papers published in English. Further, one of those named has now come forward to Science Insider with a denial:

A scientist at China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) who has recently faced media allegations that he was the first person with COVID-19 and his research on coronaviruses sparked the pandemic strongly denies that he was ill in late 2019 or that his work had any link to the emergence of SARS-CoV-2. Moreover, a newly released U.S. report of declassified information on COVID-19’s origin… “My colleagues and I tested for SARS-CoV-2 antibody in early March 2020 and we were all negative.”

…Hu is an appealing suspect for lab-leak proponents because he was a lead author on a 2017 paper in PLOS Pathogens describing an experiment that created chimeric viruses by combining genes for surface proteins from bat coronaviruses that would not grow in cultures with the genome of one that did.

In contrast to the regular stream of repetitive “lab leak” media sensations, scientific work building the case that SARS-CoV-2 is natural and that it spread to humans in ways that have nothing to do with a lab escape receives far less attention. It seems to me that it is “lab leakers”, rather than sceptical scientists, who have enjoyed the patronage of a compliant media, in large part relying on the mystique of “intelligence” (in one case the Daily Telegraph even wheeled out a former head of MI6 to as substitute peer review for a paper that had failed to pass muster). However, as Rasmussen points out:

The reason why [there is] no clarity on origins thanks to this declassified report is that this has always been a scientific question rather than an intelligence question.


1. One of the more memorable chapters of Nick Davies’ 2008 book Flat Earth News chronicles the decline of the Sunday Times “Insight” team:

The desperate quest for suitable scoops without suitable resources… produced a string of stories which were simply fictitious. There was a joke in the office: “Our stories are more manufactured than retail.” Journalists on other newspapers who were used to following up Sunday Times exclusives simply stopped bothering. It became a Fleet Street cliché to talk about the stories on the Sunday Times which “stood up on Sunday and fell down by Monday”. I know Whitehall press officers now who rank the paper above even the cheapest red-top tabloid as a source of fabricated stories.

2. This was a year after the Mail on Sunday ran a number of lab leak stories (a period during which lab leakers now claim that their theories were being suppressed and derided unfairly as conspiracy theories).

3. Shellenberger also has “multiple sources” who have told him that the US “has 12 or more alien spacecraft”.

Richard Fairbrass Claims Vaccine Holocaust Tweet was a Hack

A statement from novelty pop musician turned conspiracy influencer Richard Fairbrass:

Right Said Fred would like to issue the following statement ‘Some may be aware that the tweet below is currently circulating on Twitter and has incited negative attention towards us. We would like to state that this tweet was never posted by Richard and we believe his account has been infiltrated and compromised, not for the first time. We both come from Jewish heritage and find any intimation of antisemitism abhorrent. We regret any offence this tweet may have cause.

The Tweet being disavowed posted an image of the concrete and wire fence line at Auschwitz-Birkenau, above which was written:

“No need for gas chambers when vaccines will do the job slowly and quietly and nobody will even know it’s a holocaust”

The quote is unattributed despite the quotation marks.

The original Tweet was immediately derided as an obvious example of Holocaust trivialisation; Fairbrass’s apparent acknowledgement that as such it carries “an intimation” of antisemitism is in contrast to the position of disgraced MP Andrew Bridgen, who has defended comparing Covid vaccination with the Holocaust on the grounds that an Israeli academic agrees with him. Bridgen is currently suing Matt Hancock for libel after Hancock called the comparison antisemitic.

The original Tweet appeared at 12.25 on 4 June. Fairbrass was active on Twitter in the hours afterwards, including interacting with other users on other subjects. It’s not clear when the Tweet was taken down, but the statement claiming a hack was not published until more than 24 hours later. It is very difficult to understand why it took so long, and the hacker’s motives remain unclear – the Tweet came under particular criticism, but it was not anomalous. For instance, in January Fairbrass defended Bridgen’s Holocaust comparision, calling Sajid Javid an “ill informed wanker” for criticising him; there are other examples from the same period, at least one of which has now been deleted after coming under renewed attention.

In January 2022, Fairbrass and his brother Fred Fairbrass said they had “got it wrong” after promoting a livestream hosted by neo-Nazi Mark Collett; more recently, however,  Richard Fairbrass’s output has included supporting Paul Golding’s complaint about a Muslim reciting the adhan outside the Royal Albert Hall as part of an iftar event, and posting a Ukrainian flag with the words “Fuck Ukraine” superimposed over it. None of this damaged their standing within the populist milieu: just last month they appeared on GB News live from Bournemouth, where they were shown larking around with Nigel Farage. It seems that someone, though, judged their more recent Holocaust Tweet to be a more serious matter.

The Mystery of Mike Veale’s Delayed Gross Misconduct Inquiry

From the Press Association:

‘Stonewalling’ claim as misconduct inquiry delayed into former police boss

A Home Office minister has been accused of “stonewalling” in response to frustrations surrounding a delayed gross misconduct inquiry into a former chief constable. Lord Sharpe of Epsom was tackled over the investigation into Mike Veale which is yet to start despite being announced in August 2021.

Veale was Chief Constable of Wiltshire Police during Operation Conifer, an expensive investigation into whether former Prime Minister Edward Heath, who had died a decade before in 2005, had committed sexual offences. No evidence was found, but Heath’s reputation was tarnished by sensationalising leaks to the Mail on Sunday. Those leaks were very likely channelled through Andrew Bridgen MP, who although always a buffoon was not at that time publicly associated with the belligerent conspiracy theorising that he has embraced since being disgraced in court. Veale went on to become Chief Constable of Cleveland Police, although he didn’t last long and Bridgen then recommended him as an advisor to Rupert Matthews, the UFO-enthusiast Police and Crime Commissioner for Leicestershire; Veale soon afterwards resigned from that role due to negative media coverage. (1)

Delays over Veale’s misconduct inquiry have been lamented for months; on 6 February BBC News ran a piece headlined “Probe into ex Cleveland chief constable Mike Veale should be ‘speeded up'”, which was followed on 21 March with “Mike Veale: Ex-Wiltshire police chief ‘not taken to task’” from the Salisbury Journal. According to the latter,

In cryptic remarks, Tory frontbencher Lord Sharpe of Epsom told peers there were reasons for the postponement, but he was unable to reveal what they were.

Lord Sharpe was responding to a question from Lord Debben (better-known as John Gummer), but the fuller exchange was initiated by Lord Lexden (Alistair B. Cooke), the official historian of the Conservative Party.

The matter also features in the latest issue of Private Eye magazine (1599, p. 13, “Called to Ordure” column). The magazine compares Lord Lexden to a “mild-mannered detective quietly persisting until he nabs his villain”, and describes him variously as “mouselike” and as having “tradmark Monsieur Poirot courtesy”. It also quotes his contribution to a Lords debate on 3 May on restoring public confidence in the police, where he stated

It is unconscionable that one of the Crown’s First Ministers should pass into history with even a faint suspicion of wrongdoing because no one in authority today will do anything to help wipe it out… For me personally, Operation Conifer showed how hard it had become in Britain today to feel full confidence in our police.

Operation Conifer was distinct from the Metropolitan Police’s disastrous Operation Midland, but there were overlaps and it is reasonable to judge that the Met’s pursuit of sensational allegations against “VIPs” set an example. Shortly after the end of Operation Conifer, one of Veale’s first media interviews was with none other than Mark Watts of Exaro, the alternative media outfit that first brought Carl Beech to police attention. However, it seems that these overlaps are now being used to explain away details specific to Operation Conifer. Here’s Lord Sharpe in the same debate:

On Operation Conifer, I really have heard what my noble friends in particular have said on this matter. One thing that I feel I must say is that, even though the accusations laid against some of the people who were investigated turned out to be those of a fantasist, that fantasist was given political cover and there was political pressure involved here; we should not forget that fact.

As noted in Private Eye, this is a reference to Tom Watson MP, who advocated on behalf of Beech and other accusers and liaised with the Metropolitan Police. However, it’s not clear that his influence extended into Wiltshire.


1. One person who claims to have had contact with both Andrew Bridgen and Mike Veale is retired police officer turned anti-Satanic Ritual Abuse obsessive Jon Wedger, although he’s the only source for this (see here for Bridgen and here for Veale).

Fall-Out from the Operation Midland Fiasco Continues

From the Daily Mail:

Former Met Deputy Assistant Commissioner Steve Rodhouse should face a disciplinary board over allegations he lied in public at the conclusion of Operation Midland, the police watchdog has ruled.


…In another stunning victory for the Mail, two fantasists exposed in our damning two-part probe last year have been referred to West Midlands Police to be investigated over claims they may have perverted the course of justice.

…despite clear evidence that the pair – known as Witnesses A and B – deliberately misled detectives, the Met twice declined to launch a criminal investigation into them. This involved ignoring the recommendation of retired High Court judge Sir Richard Henriques, who wrote a scathing report on Midland and called for them to be probed.

The decision to charge Mr Rodhouse with gross misconduct comes six months after he was served with a formal notice alleging he used ‘inaccurate or dishonest’ words at the end of Midland.

The career-threatening accusations centre on a press statement issued by the Met in March 2016 in which Mr Rodhouse said ‘officers have not found evidence to prove that they were knowingly misled by a complainant’.

The article is by Stephen Wright and Richard Pendlebury, who interviewed “Witness A” last year. The “police watchdog” is the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), which previously investigated Operation Midland under the name “Operation Kentia“. Operation Midland was infamously triggered by Carl Beech, a man whose extravagant tales of VIP child sex abuse and murder were declared to be “credible and true” before any of his claims had been examined and despite obvious similarities with “Satanic panic” ritual abuse tropes from the 1980s. Beech is now in prison, both for perverting the course of justice and for possessing indecent images of children. It is alleged that Rodhouse misled the public over evidence that “Witness A” and “Witness B”, who both latched onto Beech’s allegations, had deliberately lied to police.

Rodhouse is currently joint deputy head of the National Crime Agency, and the fact that he has not been suspended while the investigation takes place is the subject of a companion article by Wright that quotes Paul Settle:

Former detective chief inspector Paul Settle, who blew the whistle on Mr Rodhouse’s disastrous pursuit of innocent VIPs, accused law enforcement chiefs of ‘double standards’. ‘If he was a junior officer charged with gross misconduct, he would be removed from operational duties or suspended immediately,’ said Mr Settle.

The article also features a chart titled “The nexus of Nick”, referring to the name the false accuser Carl Beech was given by the media before he was exposed. According to the caption blurb, it “lays bare the extraordinary police, media and political links in the still unravelling story”. As this is a (barely legible) graphic rather than text, I describe it in more detail below.

The Daily Mail article also quotes the former MP Harvey Proctor, whose decision to hold a press conference while he was still a suspect in 2015 did much to expose the extent to which the Metropolitan Police had been taken in by fantastical claims totally lacking in evidence or plausibility. His full statement has been posted to Twitter; he writes that

…The IOPC’s investigation, Operation Thyamus, reveals the corporate cover-up which has been perpetrated by the Metropolitan Police Service these last 8 years concerning its errors in Operation Midland. It is long overdue but very welcome, nonetheless.

In particular, he refers to search warrants that were allegedly issued on the basis of “lies” told by police to the magistrate, and to the destruction of documents, “particularly after I asked Cressida Dick to preserve them for future scrutiny by future public inquiries”. He has also discussed the new development on GB News in conversation with Jacob Rees-Mogg, and Operation Midland has been the subject of other scathing and mocking commentary by GB News presenters (although these presenters incorrectly attribute “credible and true” to “the head of Scotland Yard” rather than to Detective Kenny McDonald, and misleadingly say that Beech had accused “the Prime Minister”, rather than former Prime Minister Edward Heath).

The fact that the Daily Mail and GB News are the primary sources here will likely embed the impression that Operation Midland is a concern mainly of “the right” – on the left, allegations against establishment figures and old Tory right-wingers enjoyed a presumption of credibilty due to confirmation bias that overrode natural scepticism about the police. However, Wright has also assembled a more generalised united front “panel of victims of police corruption, incompetence and malpractice” that includes Doreen Lawrence and Alastair Morgan.

Selectivity in holding the police accountable also works both ways – for instance, I don’t expect to see Jacob Rees-Mogg interviewing innocent people who were recently arrested ahead of the coronation of King Charles in order to create a bogus narrative about plots to disrupt the event.

The Daily Mail‘s “Nexus of Nick” graphic

The top left of the chart starts with Operation Midland, noting officers Alison Hepworth, Erik Sword, Diane Tudway and Kenny McDonald (“all later cleared of wrongdoing”), and Operation Vincente (a separate investigation into Leon Brittan), featuring James Townly (said to have called Beech “the real deal”), David Gray and Graham McNulty. These two groups then feed into Steve Rodhouse, who is linked in turn with NCA head Lynne Owens and former Met Chief Cressida Dick. She in turn links to her deputy Sir Stephen House (“attempted to keep her out of the firing line”) and two figures associated with the Met’s Professional Standards Department: Matthew Horne and Helen Ball (said to have “tried to minimise criticism of the Met”).

Moving across the top of the chart, we see former Met chief Bernard Hogan-Howe (“Met chief when Operation Midland was launched”) and Theresa May, who at the time was Home Secretary. There’s also a direct line on the chart from Beech to May, which is pure sensationalism and is unexplained. May then links to three figures in the IOPC : Michael Lockwood, Jonathan Green and Kimberley Williams (“appointed ‘lead investigator’ of IOPC probe into Operation Midland despite inexperience”). Two furher officers are linked to Hogan-Howe: Patricia Gullan (“received briefings on both Operation Midland and Vincente”) and James Vaughan (“chief constable of Dorset Police controversially backed the Met’s decision to interview Lord Brittan under caution in Operation Vincente”).

Separate strands on “Media” feature the Exaro trio of Mark Conrad, Mark Watts and David Hencke, as well as Tom Symonds and Tom Bateman of the BBC (“Beech met Mr Symonds and Mr Bateman prior to the BBC running his story has headline news. Mr Symonds showed him images of other potential ‘victims’). Under these are listed the alleged “Victims”, a designation that is given quote marks, featuring Witness A and Witness B, as well as the Brittan accuser “Jane”. Then come “Watson’s VIP Abuse Informants”, comprising Mike Broad (“trade unionist” who “spread conspiracy theories about Lord Brittan”), Chris Fay and Peter McKelvie.

Finally, at bottom right come Tom Watson, and then under “Labour” Sadiq Khan, Keir Starmer and Yvette Cooper. Starmer is included for his 2011 directive as Director of Public Prosecutions that “all victims should be believed”, but the justifications for including Khan and Cooper are weak and strained. We’re told only that “London mayor Sadiq Khan has been accused of being ‘uninterested’ in the Nick scandal… while Yvette Cooper, when chairman of the Commons home affairs committee, was reportedly reluctant to reopen an inquiry by MPs into Operation Midland”.

Some Notes on the Metropolian Police, the Mail on Sunday and a Coronation “Rape-Alarm Plot”

From the Mail on Sunday, 22 April:

Militant protesters are plotting to sabotage the Coronation by throwing rape alarms at horses in the procession, senior security sources have told The Mail on Sunday.

Concerns have been raised at the highest level of Government that the stunt could lead to serious injuries or even deaths if spooked horses bolt into the crowds lining the route.

Organisers fear that Just Stop Oil eco-activists will join forces with other groups to orchestrate a mass disruption of the May 6 event.

…Security sources did not specify which group or groups were behind the plan, but said police and other security officials ‘planned to take a robust response with protesters who attempt to disrupt proceedings’.

…Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle condemned the rape alarm plot, saying: ‘Mindless behaviour of this sort would be utterly and totally unacceptable on any day.

…former Cabinet Minister Jacob Rees-Mogg said: ‘This is not legitimate protest – this is hooliganism with a veneer of protest.’

This was a few days after a Just Stop Oil activist had disrupted the World Snooker Championship (“well these are terrible, terrible scenes here at the Crucible” – BBC Sport), and a fortnight after Animal Rebellion (aka Animal Rising) had been foiled in an attempt to prevent the Grand National horse race (1). It was therefore reasonable to assume that the two groups, and others similar to it, might seek to disrupt the Coronation procession if they thought the attempt feasible.

However, this particular story failed to convince. First, if such a plot existed, would “security sources” really want the group involved to know that they were under surveillance or had been infilitrated two weeks in advance? They were not named, but they surely would have recognised themselves. Second, a plot that would involve distress and possible injury to animals seems at odds with environmental groups’ opposition to animal cruelty. Third, “security sources” is hopelessly vague. Intelligence agents? Someone with a background in security, but now providing rent-a-quotes to grateful journalists? This is a genre of speculation where no-one is reputationally accountable or has to demonstrate proper expertise: previous items citing vague and anonymous “security sources” I have noted over the years include this 2010 Mail on Sunday story about Islamic terrorists having bombs implanted inside their breasts and buttocks.

The 22 April article also mentions, very near the end:

…Separately from the briefing from security sources, the MoS has independently discovered that the hard-Right English Constitution Party has used Twitter to urge supporters to protest at the Coronation, and ‘bring rape alarms’.

The Tweet can be seen here. Although it may have been discovered by the newspaper “separately from the briefing”, it’s reasonable to suspect that this is also what inspired the “security sources”. Were the “group or groups” supposedly “behind the plan” left unspecified deliberately, so that a false impression could be made?

But even if the “security sources” didn’t see this Tweet, it shows that the idea of using rape alarms to disrupt an event is a generic possibility. Could it be that the “security sources” provided a list of hypotheticals, and that this one was singled out for a front-page splash simply because it is the prospect most likely to anger and alienate the general public? The quote from Rees-Mogg in particular struck me as a red flag: the paper has a tendency to run dubious stories based on government talking points, such as a false claim from him in December that the Met Office (the Meteorological Office, not to be confused with the Metropolitan Police) had failed to predict a cold snap due to its employees working from home.

Nevertheless, despite such doubts the paper now claims confirmation:

Two women and a man were arrested over a plot to throw rape alarms at horses during King Charles’s Coronation.

The militant activists were arrested in the Soho area at 2am this morning – just hours before the procession.

It comes just weeks after senior security sources told the Mail on Sunday protesters were plotting to sabotage the Coronation in this way.

The newspaper quotes Deputy Assistant Commissioner Ade Adelekan as saying that “The intelligence we received led us to be extremely worried about the potential risk to public safety”, but it’s not clear if this was anything more substantial than a heightened concern based on the earlier Mail on Sunday article. Further, the new article adds:

It was reported that the three arrested were members of the Westminster City Council’s night time volunteers.

Councillor Aicha Less, Cabinet Member for Communities and Public Protection, said yesterday: ‘We are deeply concerned by reports of our Night Stars volunteers being arrested overnight.

The volunteers wear branded orange visibility jackets, and they reportedly carry a supply of rape alarms that they give to women who may be vulnerable on their way home after a night out. At least one of the arrested volunteers is also involved with Extinction Rebellion, but it is difficult to see how being in Soho on a Friday night connects coherently with a plot involving the procession route the next day. The situation was brought to widespread attention by Mic Wright, a journalist who attended the police station where they were taken (Elephant and Castle in South London rather than Charing Cross, the nearest station to Soho). New information may put a different light on matters, but that’s simply a truism that applies to anything. The paper’s confidence that the arrests prove their earlier story is not substantiated, and there are strong reasons to doubt it.

The policing of the Coronation of King Charles has also come under scrutiny due to arrests of the leaders of the campaigning group Republic, who had organised a lawful protest at Trafalgar Square. As reported by the BBC:

Footage showed protesters in “Not My King” t-shirts being detained, including Mr [Graham] Smith. Republic said they were stopped by police while unloading signs near the procession.

The Met said “lock-on devices” – which protesters can use to secure themselves to things like railings – had been seized. Recent changes to the law, passed this week, make it illegal to prepare to lock-on.

But Republic said officers had “misconstrued” straps meant to secure their signs in place.

The Mail on Sunday‘s reference to a “fear” that groups would “join forces” left ambiguous whether they meant Republic or just different environmental groups, although the front page of the print edition made an explicit connection between “eco-warriors and republican fanatics”. However, Republic has no history of disruptive “direct action” stunts, and anyone planning one is hardly likely to draw attention to themselves beforehand with a t-shirt and placard. And what were they supposed to be planning to lock themselves onto? Meanwhile, the claim that the police had “intelligence” about a plot has now expanded into a more generalised form, as expounded by Ed Balls on Good Morning Britain, in response to a critique by Peter Tatchell:

If they were arrested for holding placards, that would be a terrible thing. It can’t be the case that Peter’s right about that. There must have been intelligence they had about what the plan was.

UPDATE (9 May): An announcement from Westminster City Council:

We have met with the Metropolitan Police to discuss the arrest of our Night Stars, about which we have been deeply concerned. We are pleased to confirm that all three of our volunteers, who provide such a valuable service to the community, have been released without charge and will not face any further action.


1. The Mail on Sunday took credit here, revealing that “an MoS reporter posing as a member of the Animal Rebellion” had exposed the plan. This was cited by the paper’s diarist Richard Eden as supporting evidence for the rape-alarm plot, although in the latter case the paper didn’t claim first-hand knowledge.

Andrew Bridgen Promotes anti-WHO Conspiracy Rhetoric

Disgraced MP Andrew Bridgen continues is his predicable descent into the conspiracy milieu:

Very important debate on Monday on the WHO treaty amendments and the proposed changes to the international health regulations. Especially when you consider the remarks of the first director-general of the WHO.

There follows a screenshot of a supposed quote attributed to G. Brock Chisholm, the Canadian pychiatrist who was head of the World Health Organization in 1948:

To achieve world government it is necessary to remove from the minds of men their individualism, loyalty to family traditions, national patriotism, and religious dogmas.

Presumably the argument is that is quote reveals a secret principle and aim that has guided the WHO for three-quarters of a century; how it has been put into practice, though, remains unexplained, and it is difficult to see how it has any explanatory value when assessing the WHO’s work and projects either during Chisholm’s lifetime or in the 52 years since his death.

There is also reason to believe that the quote is fabricated. Certainly, Chisholm was an enthusiast for world government, and he saw religious and nationalism dogma as obstacles to world peace in the atomic age. In his 1946 publication “The Reëstablishment of Peacetime Society”, based on two 1945 lectures about the public role of psychiatry (1), he stated:

For many generations we have bowed our necks to the yoke of the conviction of sin. We have swallowed all manner of poisonous certainties fed us by our parents, our Sunday and day school teachers, our politicians, our priests, our newspapers and others with a vested interest in controlling us. “Thou shalt become as gods, knowing good and evil,” good and evil with which to keep children under control, with which to prevent free thinking, with which to impose local and familial and national loyalties and with which to blind children to their glorious intellectual heritage. Misguided by authoritarian dogma, bound by exclusive faith, stunted by inculcated loyalty, torn by frantic heresy, bedevilled by insistent schism, drugged by ecstatic experience, confused by conflicting certainty, bewildered by invented mystery, and loaded down by the weight of guilt and fear engendered by its own original promises, the unfortunate human race, deprived by these incubi of its only defences and its only reasons for striving, its reasoning power and its natural capacity to enjoy the satisfaction of its natural urges, struggles along under its ghastly self-imposed burden. The results, the inevitable results, are frustration, inferiority, neurosis and inability to enjoy living, to reason clearly or to make a world fit to live in.

The rhetoric is overheated and bombastic, and the argument simplistic. However, the contrast he sets up is between “local and familial and national loyalties” and “free thinking”. This is the antithesis of a call “to remove from the minds of men their individualism”. And the context, of course, was the recent defeat of authoritarian regimes in Europe and Japan whose subjects had very obviously been “misguided by authoritarian dogma”.

Brock Chisholm’s remarks in these areas were controversial, as discussed in John Farley’s 2009 book Brock Chisholm, the World Health Organization, and the Cold War. The quote promoted by Bridgen, though, does not feature in Farley’s study and it does not ring true.

It has, though, been a regular feature of Christian Right and conspiracy literature for decades, and it is all over the internet. In a 1985 it appeared in a book called The Unseen Hand: An Introduction Into the Conspiratorial View of History, written by a conspiracy theorist named A. Ralph Epperson. He quotes Chisholm as follows (ellipses in Epperson’s book):

To achieve world government, it is necessary to remove from the minds of men their individualism, loyalty to family tradition, national patriotism and religious dogmas…

We have swallowed all manner of poisonous certainties fed us by our parents, our Sunday and day school teachers, our politicians, our priests, our newspapers and others with vested interests in controlling us.

The reinterpretadon and eventual eradication of the concept of right and wrong which has been the basis of child training, the substituion of intelligent and rational thinking for faith in the certainties of the old people, these are the belated objectives… for charting the changes in human behavior.

An endnote cites “The Utah Independent, (September, 1977)” – this was a fringe-right newsletter. The second and third paragraphs do appear in “The Reëstablishment of Peacetime Society”, but the fact that the first one is not there is more evidence that it is bogus. Possibily it arose as a distorted summary in some other polemic work before being mistakenly incorporated into the quote itself (assuming it wasn’t done deliberately to deceive).

The third last part quoted by Epperson also deserves a bit more context. Here’s Chisholm again in full:

The re-interpretation and eventually eradication of the concept of right and wrong which has been the basis of child training, the substitution of intelligent and rational thinking for faith in the certainties of the old people, these are the belated objectives of practically all effective psychotherapy. Would they not be legitimate objectives of original education? Would it not be sensible to stop imposing our local prejudices and faiths on children and give them all sides of every question so that in their own good time they may have the ability to size things up, and make their own decisions.

The suggestion that we should stop teaching children moralities and rights and wrongs and instead protect their original intellectual integrity has of course to be met by an outcry of heretic or iconoclast, such as was raised against Galileo for finding another planet, and against those who claimed the world was round, and against the truths of evolution, and against Christ’s re-interpretation of the Hebrew God, and against any attempt to change the mistaken old ways or ideas.

The references to Galileo and Christ are grandiose and reflect a superficial (and outdated) understanding of both, but again we can see that he was railing against perceived authoritarianism, not plotting against individualism. It is therefore ironic that he should now be a bogeyman within an anti-vax conspiracy movement whose adherents regard themselves as heroic “critical thinkers” who see through “narratives” concocted by scientists and governments for nefarious reasons.


1. Chisholm’s two lectures were given in October 1945, and comprised the second series of the William Alanson White Memorial Lectures – “The Reëstablishment of Peacetime Society” was the series title, and the two lectures were called “The Responsibility of Psychiatry” and “The Responsibility of Psychiatrists”. The first was given in Washington, DC and the second in New York; they were afterwards published in Psychiatry volume 9, issue 1, in 1946, and then reprinted as a pamphlet entitled The Psychiatry of Enduring Peace and Social Progress. In both cases Chisholm is billed as “G. B. Chisholm”. The publication also incorporates an appreciation by US Under Secretary of the Interior Abe Fortas, and panel responses from Secretary of Commerce Henry A. Wallace, Federal Security Administrator Watson B. Miller, Deputry Director of the Office of War Mobilization and Reconversion Anthony Hyde and the President of the William Alanson White Psychiatric Association, Ross McClure Chapman. There is then an “appreciation and critique” from Samuel W. Hamilton, billed as “Mental Hospital Advisor to the United States Public Health Service”, followed by Chisholm’s response. Those two dots in the word “Reëstablishment” are a diaeresis, a diacritical mark that has now largely fallen into disuse.

2021: When Jack Posobiec Was Billed Alongside Laurence Fox

Back in December 2021, the cancellation of an anti-cancel culture conference in London caught the journalistic ear for irony and alliteration. The Mirror was a typical example:

Nigel Farage’s anti-cancel culture conference has been cancelled.

‘Counter Conference’, a right-wing talking shop to take place at The O2’s 3,000 capacity Indigo venue next week was set to feature the former Ukip leader, fresh from interviewing Donald Trump on GB News.

Provocateur Laurence Fox, former Trump aide Jason Miller and former US Housing Secretary Ben Carson were also set to appear at the event, organised by Mr Miller’s right-wing Twitter alternative GETTR.

But organisers pulled the plug on Tuesday night, blaming new Covid border rules which require self-isolation on arrival in the UK.

The O2 blurb can be seen here – it was due to take place on 8 December, and was billed as “the inaugural 2021 Counter Conference”.

The initial heads up came from the Spectator, which also included Mahyar Tousi to the list of names and suggested that lack of demand also played a role:

Steerpike understands the event has suffered from poor sales, selling under 400 tickets. Event organisers are said to be blaming the O2’s stringent vaccine passport policies for the lack of demand.

On GB News, Miller told presenter Mark Dolan that the event had merely been postponed to “the first or second week of March” in 2022. He also listed some other speakers on the line up, as Dolan grinned and nodded along:

Seb Gorka, Jack Posobiec, Raheem Kassam… and about 25 or 30 European members of parliament

Elsewhere, Miller also promised “folks from Brazil”, presumably referring to members of the Bolsonaro administration.

Fox’s Reclaim Party later announced that the event would take place on 22 April 2022, but that was the last that was heard of it. The cancelled counter conference thus remains a counter-factual, and we never got to see Laurence Fox on stage with Jack “Pizzagate” Posobiec. However, the affinity is worth noting, given this recent profile of Posobiec.

Collage of three “Counter Conference” flyers

BBC Investigates “Life Coaching” Cult

From a long read on BBC News:

In the past few years, Lighthouse – formally known as Lighthouse International Group and based in the Midlands in England – has received hundreds of thousands of pounds from mentees. It boasts of helping thousands of people.

Set up in 2012 by businessman Paul Waugh, it claims to be different from most life coaching groups.

Its founder, who grew up in South Africa and tells people he was a multimillionaire by the age of 35, says he has developed a revolutionary approach by fixing people’s spiritual wellbeing.

The article, by Catrin Nye, Natalie Truswell and Jamie Bartlett, ties in with their TV and audio documentaries about the group, both titled A Very British Cult. Articles reporting on their investigation have also appeared in The Times, the Sun (articles here and here), and the Daily Mail (which has also run earlier articles about the group). Ex-members describe spending hours and hours listening to and transcribing Waugh’s phone calls, handing over tens of thousands of pounds, being told that sceptical partners and family members were “toxic”, and in some cases being encouraged to move into house-shares. Meanwhile, investigators found no evidence in support of Waugh’s grandiose self-presentation of his past.

As expected, former members and other critics are targeted aggressively, in ways that Waugh thinks look convincing but that to any outsider are self-evidently vile and posturing. As written up in The Times:

A teacher who shared details online about her negative experience claimed that Lighthouse approached her employer. “They wrote an email to my head teacher, basically saying that they had concerns about me and my ability to do my job and that I was a threat to children,” she said. “Then they also began to [copy in] senior executives at the local authority. One email had a 25-page report and an 18-page report about me, making various spurious claims. One of which was that I should be psychologically evaluated.”

The BBC News long-read adds that someone who wrote critically about the group after her brother Kris became involved found herself being reported “to the police for being an internet troll. The police took no action.” Also:

Seven Lighthouse-related accounts were shut down by Twitter for hateful conduct shortly after we first got in touch with Paul Waugh, including one named “Parents Against Trolls”.

The climax of the TV documentary is a confrontation between Waugh and Nye outside the Rolls Building, a court complex round the back of the High Court used for commerical cases, just after Lighthouse had been shut down by the authorities for financial irregularies. Waugh blusters that the outcome was actually what he wanted all along, and he turns on Nye for her BBC credentials:

These parents are child abusers that you’re supporting. And you supported Sir Jimmy Savile. You… You supported Jimmy Savile and his paedophilia… [guesturing to camera] Come close… [points at Nye] Paedophile supporter!

One aspect that was touched on in the TV documentary was that in recent years the group has started to adopt a more overt religiosity. Kris runs a “Fellowship for Christian Gentlemen”, and on its website he writes that he and his “colleagues at Lighthouse began to embrace Christianity” in 2018. He claims that because of this, “we began to face hateful criticism and persecution online, based on malicious lies and disinformation”. Another religious initiative is the “Christian Response Forum”. These groups don’t appear to be linked to any wider Christian organisations.

MPs to Headline Conference Hosted by Peer Who RTed Mark Collett and Tommy Robinson

Last month, freelance journalist Andrew Connelly drew attention (here and here) to Tweets RTed by Lord Cruddas (Peter Cruddas), an influential figure on the Tory Right, including one from Tommy Robinson (“Let everyone know I’m back”), and an anti-asylum seeker Tweet from Mark Collett of the far-right Patriotic Alternative:

The people of Liverpool were protesting again last night in Knowsley against the housing of illegal migrants in hotels. The resistance against the replacement of the indigenous people of these islands is growing.

This was a reference to an incident in Knowsley during which a police van was set on fire by protestors. Collett is neo-Nazi who was once secretly recorded expressing the view that “Hitler will live on forever”; his explicit neo-Nazism is not immediately apparent from his Twitter profile, but “indigenous people” was an obvious red flag even if Cruddas didn’t recognise the distinctive and notorious name. Cruddas responded to criticism of the Collett RT from Sunder Katwala by blocking Sunder – so we can infer that Cruddas knows exactly who Collett is and does not feel the need to explain himself.

The RTs noted by Connelly are collected in the image below, and include the following claims: that George Soros is in part responsible for censorship of the Hunter Biden laptop story; that China is lying about a new wave of Covid-19, in order to deceive the West; the Emmanuel Macron is part of the New World Order (NWO); and that the police are covering up details about the Muslim community that would “start a war” if they were known.

One should be cautious about extrapolating someone’s entire worldview or character from a few problematic social media associations, but it is also reasonable to draw adverse inferences from disreputable material. And when the person concerned has influence in public life, what is going on in their head is of less relevance than the effects of their choices on the rest of us. It is disturbing that the above is regarded as acceptable by the Conservative Party, and one has to wonder if a blind eye is being turned due to his status as a former party treasurer and “billionaire donor” who was ennobled in late 2020 by Boris Johnson against the advice of the House of Lords Appointments Commission.

Cruddas’ main vehicle of influence within the Conservative Party is his “Conservative Democratic Organisation”, which is thought to be operating within local branches of the Conservative Party and holding sway over candidate selections (1). He is also hosting a CDO conference in Bournemouth next month, where the “Gala Dinner” speakers include

Priti Patel MP, Jacob Rees-Mogg MP and Nadine Dorries MP plus various other Members of Parliament, media commentators, the CDO team and VERY special guests

The “CDO team” consists of Lord Stephen Greenhalgh (Vice President), David Campbell Bannerman (Chairman), Claire Bullivant (CEO), Stephen James (Director of Digital), Mike Rouse (Field Director & Constitutional Strategist), Steven Barrett (Barrister & Independent Legal & Constitutional Consultant), John Strafford (Constitutional Consultant) Paul Diamond (Barrister & Independent Legal & Constitutional Consultant) and Alex Story (no role given, although described as a “Political Commentator”). Diamond of course is familar for his work with Christian Concern. One wonders about the guests who are so “VERY SPECIAL” that they cannot be named publicly.

The word “Democratic” in the group’s title refers to Cruddas’ wish to reform how leaders of the Conservative Party are chosen; while the CDO avoids criticising Rishi Sunak personally, it argues that he has become Prime Minister due to a flawed process, and that Boris Johnson ought not to have been removed from power.

Dorries is a good fit for the conference, having herself previously RTed Tommy Robinson (as noted in the Mirror in 2017). Rees-Mogg, meanwhile, infamously attended a dinner with the Traditional Britain Group in 2013, which he got away with on the grounds that he was just an “otherworldly” comedy backbencher who couldn’t be expected to have done due diligence.

Cruddas was also recently reported in The Times as having had “talks” with Aaron Banks.

Click to enlarge. Dates: Mark Collett Tweet: 12 February 2023 (account now suspended, but Tweet previously here); Tommy Robinson Tweet: 12 January (account now suspended, but Tweet previously here); Kyle Becker Tweet: 13 January (Tweet since deleted, but previously here); China Tweet: 29 December 2022 (still online); Macron NWO tweet: 11 February 2023 (still online); Muslim community Tweet: 16 January 2023 (still online). The China Tweet has too many RTs to check and Cruddas has Tweeted too often since to roll back through his timeline, but I was able to see for myself that he had indeed RTed the other two Tweets that are still online.


1. The modus operandi recalls claims made by Norman Tebbit 20 years ago about an alleged group within the party calling itself “the Movement”, the existence of which was never quite established.

Workers of England Union Sends Anti-Vaxxers to Gibraltar

A flyer for a recent event in Gibraltar:

Thursday 30th March 



Dr Aseem Malhotra | Dr Clare Craig | Dr David Cartland

Hosted by John Bowe

The logos for the two sponsoring organisations then follow: WEU, indicating the Workers of England Union, and FG, a local group called Freedom Gibraltar.

The billed speakers are well-known within the anti-Covid vaccination movement: I’ve previously blogged on Malhotra and Bowe, while Clare Craig of HART is a familiar figure from GB News. David Cartland is also with HART: on social media, he has promoted the idea that Covid vaccination causes magnetism and that areoplanes are responsible for chemtrails; screenshots indicate alignment with the view that SARS-CoV-2 does not exist; that Freemasons “without doubt” control medicine, academia, religion, finance, entertaiment and corporations; and that doctors and nurses involved in Covid vaccination should face public hangings (illustrated with an image frequently misattributed to the Nuremberg Trials).

A video of the proceedings has been helpfully summarised on Twitter by John Bye. Cartland was unable to speak due to a stomach bug, although he was present in the audience. However, disappointed attendees were instead treated to an appearance by David Icke’s son Gareth Icke; there was also a short recorded message from the disgraced MP Andrew Bridgen, and a Zoom call with Steve Kirsch. Kirsch was recently in the news after he approached a woman he didn’t know on an airflight and offered her a large amount of money to remove her face-mask; he’s since followed up by photographing a random woman wearing a face-mask he saw at a sporting event and posting the image online with a derisive comment about her.

Bye adds that the Q&A

got off to a good start when the first ‘question’ from the audience was a lady promoting some alternative health quackery about ‘healing through sound and frequency’, ironically interrupted by constant feedback from the mic. And it didn’t get any better. The other questions asked about vaccine shedding (which Malhotra brushed off as harmless), whether viruses even exist, and terrain theory vs germ theory (all getting huge cheers from the audience).

A lighter moment was when someone accidentally pressed something that set off some disco lights.

A WEU roller banner was displayed prominently on the stage behind the speakers – the organisation also had a stall at the recent TCW “Celebration of Dissent” event in London. As noted by Hope Not Hate last year:

The WEU has thrown its weight behind an increasingly unstable and bewildering anti-vaxx and anti-lockdown movement. Much of this movement is anti-scientific and driven by fear, conspiracy and confusion. The WEU has even taken out advertisements in such places as The Light Paper, whose founder is an exponent of the Flat Earth conspiracy theory.

And that’s not all:

As well as baffling employers and others with a myriad of faux science and legal jargon, the WEU has pushed the idea of non-existent rights of employees under spurious notions of “common law” which, according to the WEU’s General Secretary Stephen Morris, has been around for “1700 years”.

The group got into trouble for issuing bogus press cards to “citizen journalists”, with the Press Association winning an injunction:

The use of these fake cards came to the attention of anti-fascists when a number of far-right activists produced WEU press cards while attempting to antagonise real journalists and trade unionists covering far-right demonstrations and gatherings.

In particular, the cards were brandished by anti-migrant activists as an excuse to follow and harass asylum-seekers, as described in details by the Antifascist Research Collective. Returning to Hope Not Hate:

The WEU was represented in court by Robin Tilbrook, who described himself as the “Chairman of WEU”… The court heard the WEU was considering using the name ‘English Media Group’ in future. Interestingly, though not entirely surprisingly, the ‘English Media Group’ surfaced late last year when far-right fellow travellers Alan Leggett, Nigel Marcham, Steve Laws and Tracey Wiseman were in court in Dover for their activities related to refugee arrivals. Laws is better known as “the migrant hunter” and Marchman as the foul-mouthed reprobate “the tiny veteran”. Again, the WEU described all four as “journalists”.

Tilbrook is leader of the fringe-right English Democrats party (previously blogged here), while the WEU general secretary is a regular ED candidate named Stephen Morris. These details raise some doubts about the WEU’s claim to be politically unaffiliated. The WEU is also the sole affiliate of the “English TUC”; Hope Not Hate notes that they are run out of the same office, and Morris is again general secretary. I’m sure there was no intention to make people think that the WEU is part of the Trades Union Congress.

Also involved with the WEU is one Dr Niall McCrae, whom I previously noted here.