Friday, 9 January 2009

The 'polite letters' OF TERROR

It's often suggested that the kind of 'low-end', apparently badly-written, tabloid journalism you get in papers like The Sun or the Daily Star is actually the hardest kind to write. Even my English teacher once told me that. The thinking seems to go something like this; since almost no-one with the ability to type a few hundred words intelligibly enough to get hired as a journalist would actually write that kind of nonsense with a straight face, tabloid journalists are actually well-drilled geniuses of a sort, able to control their natural urge to write things like 'facts' or their actual opinion in favour of a mendacious, crowd-pleasing tissue of half-truths, quarter-truths, deliberate misrepresentations, and outright lies couched in the kind awkward phrasing and bizarre word selections you simply don't get taught at school. To be a tabloid journalist, it seems, you have to be able to slay the terrifying demons that are your conscience and/or tendency to write like a human being, in order to tell the kind of story that your proprietor requires of you. Worse, there's just so much more ball-breaking work involved in having to make up the story first and then write it, as opposed to dryly reporting existing news.

There's at least some truth in that, but that only makes it all the more dispiriting as you wonder if the person who wrote, for example, IMMIGRANTS HAVE STOLEN ALL OUR JOBS was once a bright-eyed young chap with a dream that he'd change the world with his crusading brand of truthful investigative journalism, only to end up getting paid to lie about some of the poorest members of society.

I mention this because sometimes a story comes up where the insane lying involved has clearly taken so much more effort than, say, writing something true, that you almost (almost) want to applaud it. Step forward, then, everyone involved with Hate Hit List, which was the source of The Sun's eye-popping Wednesday front page 'TERROR TARGET SUGAR', which lifted the lid on a mysterious cabal of "hate-filled Islamic extremists" who were "drawing up a “hit list” of Britain’s leading Jews", a list apparently including Sir Alan Sugar, Mark Ronson, and Amy Winehouse.

The story was entirely based on the claims of an 'anti-terror expert' by the name of Glen Jenvey, who had uncovered an Islamic internet forum (, where this list was being compiled by Muslims planning a "deadly backlash against UK Jews". Reprehensible stuff indeed, but alarm bells may already have started ringing for those cynics among you who might consider some posts on an internet forum a somewhat flimsy basis for a screaming front-page story. True to form, bits of this story began to unravel at the merest examination. The thread in question completely fails to mention the likes of Ronson or Winehouse, for a start.

Oh yeah, one thing the terribly busy Sun hacks involved apparently neglected to get around to reading, despite taking a big quote out of it, was the opening post, in which 'saladin1970', as the Sun correctly has it, asks for a "list of british people who support Israel". In their understandable haste to alert a docile populace to this deadly threat to Britain's Jews, they must have missed the second part of the post, which makes it clear that the list is needed "so that we can write polite letters reminding them of the injustices of israel and to stop supporting israel". I've not spent enough time on to know if "writing polite letters" is code for "suicide bombings", but it does seem perhaps a tad unfortunate that neither of the two writers thought the stated purpose of the list deserved a mention. Perhaps they were just trying to save ink in these economically-troubled times.

Okay, so the thread does later go further than that. As the Sun is keen to tell us, a poster named 'abuislam' arrived to bump the thread, asking "Have we got list of top jews and supporters yet we can target? can someone start posting names and addresses". He then goes on to decry the 'polite letters' idea as so much wishy-washy hand-wringing crap: "polite will not work. Target them with Demo's out-side their Home's and Business hit and run demo's showing and exposing their war crimes in their support", something of an escalation of the campaign. Still, he fails to rouse much support.

So The Sun misrepresented a twatty (it's a technical term), arguably racist but nevertheless not particularly violent thread for a front page news story. So far, so mundane. But then a curious thing happened. The forum issued a
press release, and a subsequent quote which started, "I can confirm that the User "AbuIslam" who was posing as a Muslim on this forum is infact a freelance Journalist by the name of "Richard Tims" who registered on this forum to twist what the original Intent of this thread was for and to make Muslims look bad. Whether he works for the sun or not i dont know".

(Those of you who can see where this is going are requested to keep quiet at the back so as not ruin this movie for everyone else.)

Armed with this information, do-gooding bloggers such as Bloggerheads started digging around, and found that the Richard Tims' 'r.tims' account (which was used by someone with the same IP and email addresses as 'abuislam') was responsible for just one post, this one, plugging a website called With this in mind, another post promoting on a different site becomes that bit more intriguing, given that it cites the owner of that link as one 'Glen Jenvey'.

Conspiracy theorists among you are invited to speculate on whether this Glen Jenvey, the Glen Jenvey that apparently created the 'abuislam' profile and used it to try and whip up 'Islamic fanatics' on to threaten violence against famous British Jews, might in some way be related to terror expert Glen Jenvey (the Glen Jenvey who was cited in the Sun's article as saying that those listed ought to "treat it very seriously" and "Expect a hate campaign and intimidation by 20 or 30 thugs". That Glen Jenvey, Wikipedia tells us, uses "the internet to infiltrate terrorist organizations". But surely these would be two different Glen Jenveys? After all, the terrorism expert Glen Jenvey is a former spy, and thus almost certainly wouldn't be stupid enough to register two pseudonyms with the same email and IP address, make 'hate-filled' posts on an Islamic forum, and allow one of those pseudonyms to be traced back to the real name he uses to express outrage at the terror plot in The Sun. Right? And even if he did, surely The Sun wouldn't be conniving or foolish enough to actually quote one of his pseudonyms' posts as evidence of the terror plot which he uncovered? Why, it would almost be unethical...

(Thanks to Bloggerheads, Enemies Of Reason, and Obsolete among others for some of the info and links here, and who uncovered all manner of extra bits of hilarious/incriminating information I neglected to include. And special thanks to my sense of self-restraint, for just about resisting the temptation to title this first blog post 'Penis Jenvey'.)

UPDATE 16/01/09: as Tim Ireland and The Sun - Tabloid Lies have noted, The Sun took down the article linked to in this post on Monday, and have yet to comment or issue any kind of retraction. Perhaps this is because of some impending legal action, or perhaps The Sun is carrying out its own investigation, the details are currently too sketchy to say. I'm not holding my breath for any kind of high-profile apology or retraction, but let's hope they do the right thing, eh?


  1. Penis Jenvey! Haha!
    You should have!

    This was a fantastic read. I wasn't aware of this whole story, seeing as you know, I live over here and not over there, but it's truly incredible. It is in fact far more incredible than the actual front page cover story it revolves around. The story of completely fake stories filling the front pages of newspapers should be filling the front pages of other, more respectable newspapers.

    Are they?

  2. Excellent first post, that is quite jaw-droppingly cynical.

    Duck from BadScience.